Welcome back to our pick of the best love-themed tees from the Worn Free collection, in honour of February being the month of love with Valentines and pancakes and all that. This week we’re looking at the story behind this amazing Worn Free Joe Cocker Atlanta is for Lovers t-shirt, as worn by Joe on tour in the 1970s.
As far as we can tell Joe only played Atlanta twice in the 70s – once in 1972 and again in 1974, both times at the Municipal Auditorium. We know he wasn’t wearing the t-shirt in 1974 as he was wearing a sassy little crochet number – follow this link to take a look – warning these images may make you eyes bleed!
The other time was on March 21st 1972 – when he shared a bill with Emerson Lake and Palmer and Humble Pie – who we wrote about at the beginning of the month . Maybe Joe saw Steve Marriott’s heart tee and wanted something similar – or vice versa.
Originally from Sheffield, England; Joe rose to fame in the middle of the swinging sixties with his amazing gritty soul voice. He gave memorable performances at Woodstock and the Isle of Wight Festival before carving out a niche during the seventies with his mix of accessible bluesy soul. His musical career spanned fifty years until he passed away in 2014, aged 70.
Check out this vid of Joe’s live performance of the Beatle’s ‘A Little Help From my Friends’ at Woodstock to see why he had no problem ‘cracking America’ as the Brits call it. Joe’s version received an enthusiastic public endorsement from the fab four themselves and went on to be known as his unofficial theme tune (and the Wonder Years TV show theme tune, of course).
In 1973 John Belushi began performing a parody of Joe’s act on Saturday Night Live - a sure sign that he had made it big in the US. Belushi’s performance was spot-on and Joe himself admitted that he initially thought Belushi was lip-syncing when he first saw a clip of it on TV. In 1976 Joe joined him on stage for a shared performance of ‘Feeling Alright’, which descended into a surreal parody feedback-loop (see clip below). Apparently Paul McCartney liked Belushi’s impression so much he asked him to perform it at his birthday party.
Along with his gravelly, rasping tone, Belushi also picked up on Joe’s trademark twitchy moves. At the time it was suggested that these were a result of alcohol or substance abuse. But according to Joe, he didn’t even realise he was busting the moves until many years later, when he checked out some old clips on YouTube:
“I actually saw myself with Eric Clapton — you know, you see all your old stuff on YouTube now — and I was horrified at myself, with my arms just flailing around. I guess that came with my frustration at never having played piano or guitar… it’s just a way of trying to get feeling out — I get excited and it all comes through my body.”
We’ll leave you with another fine clip from 1971 – sadly no twitching in this one, just a still of our favourite t-shirt. The perfect fit for the month of love – whether you’re in Atlanta or Sheffield, or somewhere in between. One for all the lovers out there.