Lawrence Joel “Larry” Henley (June 30, 1937 – December 18, 2014) was an American singer and songwriter, best known for co-writing (with Jeff Silbar) the 1989 hit record “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
Henley was born Lawrence Joel Henley in Arp, Texas on June 30, 1937.
He was the lead singer of pop group the Newbeats, formed in the 1964, singing in a distinctive falsetto. The group had two hits that charted in the top 20 of Billboard magazine, with one of them, “Bread and Butter“, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts and selling over a million copies. They toured Australia and New Zealand with Roy Orbison, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the Rolling Stones on the “Big Beat ’65” tour. The group’s last single was released in 1974. Henley had a solo album, Piece a Cake, released in 1975.
He co-wrote with Red Lane “‘Til I Get It Right” for Tammy Wynette, a 1973 #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles, later covered by Barbara Streisand and Kenny Rogers. Other #1 country hits were his songs “Is It Still Over?” (performed by Randy Travis), “Lizzie and the Rainman” (performed by Tanya Tucker), and “He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)” (performed by Janie Fricke). Other songs included “Shotgun Rider” for Delbert McClinton, “You’re Welcome to Tonight” by Lynn Anderson and Gary Morris and “The World Needs a Melody” by The Carter Family with Johnny Cash.
Henley was a friend of Bobby Goldsboro and it was because of Henley’s urging that Goldsboro sang the song “Honey“.
He was a 2012 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. “Bread and Butter” has been used in Sunbeam Bread advertisements and multiple films, while “Wind Beneath My Wings” was part of the soundtrack for Beaches (1988). “Love Is on the Air” written by Henley with Jim Hurt and Johnny Slate, performed by Lou Rawls was used in The Cannonball Run.
The song “Wind Beneath My Wings” (sung by Henley and Jeff Silbar) was a U.S. #1 hit for Bette Midler and has since totaled around 6 million radio air plays. The song earned Henley and Silbar the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for 1989, and Bette Midler the Record of the Year award. The song was originally recorded by Roger Whittaker in 1982 and has since been covered by numerous artists.
On December 18, 2014, Henley died of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease in Nashville, Tennessee at age 77.
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SINGER JOE COCKER DIES AT 70 AFTER BATTLE WITH LUNG CANCER
NEW YORK (AP) — Joe Cocker, the raspy-voiced British singer known for his frenzied cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends,” the teary ballad “You Are So Beautiful” and a contorted performing style uncannily parodied by John Belushi on “Saturday Night Live,” has died. He was 70.
His London-based agent, Barrie Marshall, said Cocker died Monday of lung cancer in Colorado, where he has lived for the past two decades.
Cocker, an interpreter more than a writer, became a star through his dazzling transformation of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Featuring a gospel-styled arrangement and furious call and response between Cocker and the backup singers, the song became a No. 1 hit in England and the highlight of his characteristically manic set at the Woodstock festival in 1969.
In a statement Monday, Paul McCartney remembered hearing Cocker’s cover of the song he and John Lennon co-wrote for Ringo Starr and finding it “just mind blowing,” a “soul anthem.”
“I was forever grateful for him for doing that,” McCartney said. “I knew him through the years as a good mate, and I was so sad to hear that he had been ill and really sad to hear today that he had passed away.”
Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour and traveling party of 1970, featuring Leon Russell and numerous top session musicians, produced a film and a recording that went gold. But future success was more sporadic, and Cocker suffered from both drug and financial problems.
He had a top 10 hit in 1975 on “You Are So Beautiful,” his voice cracking on the final, emotional note, and won a Grammy Award in 1983 for his “Up Where We Belong” duet with Jennifer Warnes, the theme of the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
His cover of Bryan Adams‘ “When the Night Comes” was featured in the film “An Innocent Man” and became a top 20 single in 1990.
Cocker, who received an Order of the British Empire in 2011 for his contribution to music, released 40 albums and continued to tour after the hits stopped. His other popular covers included “Feelin’ Alright,” “The Letter” and “Cry Me a River,” a song previously recorded by one of Cocker’s greatest influences, Ray Charles.
His voice, at times so worn it seemed in danger of shredding, was just one part of his legend. No Cocker fan could forget his intense, twitchy stage presence, his arms flailing, his hips stretching, his face contorting. Among those watching were Belushi, whose expert imitation became a feature of his early National Lampoon shows and eventually a part of popular history when he joined Cocker in 1976 for a duet of “Feelin’ Alright” on “Saturday Night Live.”
Years later, Cocker told The Associated Press’ Mary Campbell that he was playing an imaginary piano and air guitar while singing – the elements that contributed to this unique style.
“That was the frustration of not being able to play, really,” he said.
Cocker was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and was singing with local bands by the time he was a teenager. His early groups included Vance Arnold and the Avengers and the Grease Band, which backed him on “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Cocker moved to Crawford, Colorado, a town of fewer than 500 people, in the early 1990s. He and his wife, Pam, ran a children’s educational foundation – the Cocker Kids Foundation – that raised funds for the town and schools, and ran the Mad Dog Cafe for several years in town, said Tom Wills, publisher of The North Fork Merchant Herald, a local community newspaper.
Wills said Cocker bought about 40 acres of property and built a hillside mansion – which he called Mad Dog Ranch – when he moved to Colorado.
A group of Cocker’s friends gathered Monday at community radio station KVNF to play Cocker’s songs.
“He had a long battle with cancer. We’re trying to do a little tribute for him,” said Bob Pennetta, a real estate agent and board member of the Cocker Kids Foundation.
Cocker is survived by his wife, Pam; a brother; a step daughter and two grandchildren. A private memorial is planned. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to The Cocker Kids’ Foundation, P.O. Box 404, Crawford, CO. 81415.
By David Bauder | Colleen Slevin and Jim Anderson in Denver and Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this story.
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JOE COCKER DEAD AT 70
Legendary rock star Joe Cocker, 70, has died, his agent confirmed to the BBC.
“It is with the heaviest hearts we heard that our beloved Joe Cocker passed away last night,” Barrie Marshall said in a statement to the BBC. “He was without the doubt the greatest rock/soul voice ever to come out of Britain and remained the same man throughout his life. Hugely talented — a true star — but a kind and humble man who loved to perform. Anyone who ever saw him live will never forget him.”
Cocker, who was born John Robert Cocker in 1944, rose to fame in the 1960s when he covered “With a Little Help From My Friends” by the Beatles. His version was later used as the theme song for the series “The Wonder Years.”
In 1975, he enjoyed another hit with “You Are So Beautiful,” before winning a Grammy in 1983 for a duet of “Up Where We Belong” with Jennifer Warnes. He last released an album, “Fire It Up,” in 2012 and had been performing live last year.
“I think he should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” his friend Billy Joel said in September, calling Cocker “a great singer who is not very well right now.” “I’m amazed that he’s not yet.”
Cocker is survived by his wife, Pam Baker, with whom he lived on a ranch in Colorado. The couple did not have children.
“He was simply unique,” Marshall, who has not yet responded to ABC News’ request for comment, added in the statement. “We had the joy to work with this wonderful man for almost 30 years. We loved him, and it will be impossible to fill the space he leaves in our hearts.”
By Lesley Messer | Entertainment Editor | Good Morning America
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JOE COCKER’S 5 GREATEST MOMENTS
Joe Cocker succumbed to cancer Monday at the age of 70, but the music of the veteran British belter will undoubtedly live on. Aside from his full-throated, soulful voice, Cocker was known for his funky stage moves, often contorting himself into awkward positions as if overwhelmed by the power of the music moving through his body.
To pay tribute to Cocker, we’ve assembled some of his finest moments. [Go to the web article to see the rest.]
1. “With a Little Help From My Friends”
Hundreds of artists have covered the songs of Lennon and McCartney over the years, but few have eclipsed the popularity of a Beatles original with their own take. Cocker is one of the select few. He took “With a Little Help From My Friends,” the pleasant, Ringo Starr-warbled second track on the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band, and transformed it into a scorching soul ballad, featuring Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page on guitar. It topped the U.K. singles chart in 1968, and a year later, Cocker famously performed it at Woodstock. Amazingly, in the U.S., the single stalled at No. 68. Years later, though, it became the theme song for the period-piece sitcom The Wonder Years, thus exposing Cocker and his amazing Beatles cover to a whole new generation.
[Article includes a clip of Cocker getting by, backed by all-star friends including Phil Collins on drums and Queen’s Brian May on guitar, at the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in June 2002.]
Craig Rosen Writer
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
23: Jo Jo Benson, 76, American singer.
22: Joe Cocker, 70, British singer (“With a Little Help from My Friends”, “You Are So Beautiful”, “Up Where We Belong”), lung cancer.
21: Walter De Buck, 80, Belgian singer and sculptor, esophageal cancer; Horacio Ferrer, 81, Uruguayan poet, broadcaster and tango lyricist, heart failure; Udo Jürgens, 80, Austrian composer and singer (“Reach for the Stars”), winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 1966.
20: Eleanor Kilgallen, 95, American talent agent; Chip Young, 76, American guitarist and record producer.
19: Barbara Jones, 62, Jamaica reggae/gospel singer, leukemia.
18: John Fry, 69, American record producer, founder of Ardent Studios, cardiac arrest; Larry Henley, 77, American singer (The Newbeats) and songwriter (“Wind Beneath My Wings”); Larry Smith, 63, American record producer (Run–D.M.C., King of Rock).