Joe was up where he belonged

Graham Walker and Joe Cocker
Graham Walker and Joe Cocker
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When you’ve met all your boyhood heroes it’s difficult to become starstruck – but when Joe Cocker walked in the room I was, for once, lost for words.

There before me, larger than life, was the founding father of Sheffield’s music greats. The city’s first global superstar.

Not that he gave me a chance to get tongue-tied. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways.

Backstage at Sheffield Arena he bounded right up, shook me by the hand and thanked me for all the support he still got in his home town paper, The Star.

It said a lot about him. This was the same old Joe, values intact, who left town as a gas fitter to go play Woodstock and top the charts.

Even for a rock star it had been a big week: an audience at Buckingham Palace to get his OBE, then unveiling your very own plaque on Sheffield’s Walk of Fame followed by your first home town concert in around a decade.

On stage is up where he really belonged.

At the crucial moment, when his girl singers cried out: “ Do you need anybody?” Joe let out rock and roll’s mightiest scream as he called for a little help from his friends. Fans went wild and belted out all the hits and new songs, accompanied by his trademark ‘fidgetfingeredair’ guitar.

Here was a man, who started out at the Mucky Duck, now at the top of his game – who at his very best made most other singers sound second rate.

And so it was on that Saturday night, back in December 2007, that Joe met a couple of Star backstage winners, signed autographs and posed for photos.

He told me how deeply moved he had been by his home crowd welcome when he appeared on stage. He said: “I’ve no intention of calling it a day – I’ll keep rocking on and I will be back in Sheffield. I still have the energy and the desire.”

Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

At just 70 years young he’s gone, after losing his battle to lung cancer.

But all fans have their special memories. I have mine. And, just like his greatest recordings, may they last forever.

God bless Joe.