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Sing a Hymn for His Soul

December 28, 2014

“Sing a hymn for my soul
Stand by me as I grow
I’m just tryin’ to climb up nine hills in seven short days
Sing a hymn for my soul
Let’s go home”

– Joe Cocker, from “Sing a Hymn for My Soul”

We said goodbye to Joe Cocker last week. I’ve thought about and thanked Joe a lot the past few days. He left us with plenty of music we can enjoy for years to come.

He made a big splash at Woodstock and with his first album, “With a Little Help from My Friends.” I was too young to welcome him when he made his debut, however a few years later, my schoolboy buddies and I caught up and found out for ourselves what all the talk was about. We heard his music on the FM radio stations, tape decks in our cars and turntables spinning in our parents’ basements. For me however, I didn’t fully appreciate how good he was or how much I enjoyed his music until we went out to the local movie theater to watch the film, Mad Dogs and the Englishmen. It was a full-blown set of rock and roll and bluesy music with a stage full of enthusiastic and talented young musicians – more than thirty altogether. We heard from Rita Coolidge and many other female singers. There was lots of percussion, horns, and of course, Leon Russell was center stage with Joe Cocker. The two of them were living proof of big sound. For my money, they never sounded better than when they played on the same stage together.

Joe Cocker went on to record many other albums and enjoy success nobody could have ever imagined all those years ago. He didn’t write many songs, but he sang others’ as if they were his own. He covered them all – The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Traffic, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and so many others. He found a way to bring a new light and sound to each of them.

I’ll keep listening. And I think it’s about time for me to dig up the old concert movie again.

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I saw myself today
I’ve smiled and looked away
Saddened by my visible life
Sorrow cut me like a knife
Nobody knows you without any doubt
Nobody wants to know you, when you’re down and out

So sing a hymn for my soul
Stand by me as I grow
I’m just trying to climb up nine hills in seven short days
Sing a hymn for my soul

I saw myself today
Didn’t like what I had to say
So right, I could only be wrong
Trouble is when I’m alone
No doubt, no self-control, not a reason to cry
I feel like empty rain, through an empty sky

So Sing a hymn for my soul
Stand by me as I grow
I’m just trying to climb up nine hills in seven short days
So sing a hymn for my soul

I saw myself today
I looked good, yes I had to say
Polished TV won’t shine no more
Flyin’ dragons surround my door
Even when I go crazy
To my own self I’ll be true
Ain’t nobody’s business what I do

So sing a hymn for my soul
Stand by me as I grow
I’m just trying to climb up nine hills in seven short days
Sing a hymn for my soul
Tell me about it

Sing a hymn for my soul
Sing a hymn for my soul
Stand by me as I grow
Won’t you stand by me
Little girl, you know it
Sing a hymn for my soul
One more

Sing a hymn for my soul
Stand by me as I grow
I’m just tryin’ to climb up nine hills in seven short days
Sing a hymn for my soul
Let’s go home

Sing a hymn for my soul
Sing a hymn for my soul
Stand by me as I grow
Won’t you do that for me
Take me all the way home
Sing a hymn for my soul
Sing a hymn for my soul
Come on baby
Stand by me as I grow

– Sing a Hymn for My Soul

26 Comments
  1. I been finding it very strange when the voices of my youth start disappearing.

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  2. Hi bruce, i really like your music posts. I am not a joe cocke afficianado, by any means, but did appreciate his gruff voice. Was thinkong if ram on today as lou reeds walk on the wild side played on the car radio. That was another excellent post of yours, happy new year, xo LMA

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    • Hello, Pete. That he did. He knocked out songs you might not otherwise listen to – “The Letter,” for example.

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  3. “Climb up another nine hills in seven short days.” It reminds me of some of my backpacking trips, Bruce, except it was usually another nine hills in one short day. Another great is gone. Thanks for sharing. –Curt

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  4. I always liked his sound, he was a favorite. So sorry he’s gone. Great post.

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    • Thanks, Elisa. There sure was a lot of good music to choose from. He was prolific over the years and selected some wonderful songs to sing.

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  5. I’m so glad that you remembered Joe here …thank you for sharing your memories of him.
    Such a uniquely talented, energetic guy.

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    • Hi LB – he was energetic indeed. I was thinking about him and so I wrote a bit. Good music and fond memories of the time we discovered him.

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  6. I invite you to come to my blog post about Joe Cocker, who was a dear friend I worked with and traveled with as one of the two women photographers on the Joe Cocker Mad Dogs and Englishmen Tour. Please enjoy my post and photos about Joe and join me on my website for more photos and stories: http://www.lindawolf.net

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  7. Hello Linda – yes, I saw your post earlier this morning. Lovely story. That Mad Dogs and Englishmen project must have been quite a time. Looking in from the outside, the music was very vibrant.

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  8. I have 900 plus songs on my iPod and the ongoing joke has always been that whenever I have it on shuffle, inevitably Joe popped up. Huge fan and now I’ll have a twinge when I hear that familiar raspy voice.

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  9. I can relate to those hills at the moment xx Rowena

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    • Rowena, I think the hills that you climb are steeper and longer than many of us could imagine. You are an inspirational climber.

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  10. Yes, good call on “The letter,” BT. The list is long. Lastly, thanks for sharing your story & pics, Linda!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The Letter!” The Box Tops never heard their music played so well. Check out Linda’s blog post on Patti Smith today.

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  11. Thanks for liking my blog, I’m enjoying the variety on yiourw.

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  12. This is a touching tribute, Bruce. I’ve never paid enough attention to become a fan, and now I realize that is my loss. I’m glad to learn more about Joe Cocker, and I like the hymn you sang for him with this post.

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  13. A great post, Bruce. I’ll miss him.

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  14. Joe Cocker’s voice made me uncomfortable. I suppose that’s why he was so good – he made us really LISTEN to the words, since his voice interlaced them with pain in a way, or an angst.

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  15. Wonderful singer!….

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