Long in the Tooth

Getting older with Joe Cocker


A moment of clarity hit me this week. While putting my thoughts together for this pick, a couple of incidents stopped me in my tracks. I had just put a movie in my DVD player and was sitting back with a box of Junior Mints when a tooth fell out of my head! Popped right out. The whole thing, roots and all. It was a molar, and it was already dead as I had a root canal 20 years ago, so there was no blood, no pain—but still!

I am at a certain age (my friend Roy calls us the Sonic Boomers) where things begin to go south. I then recalled that the first time I saw Joe Cocker perform. It was 40 years ago! How could that be? I was just a pup, in early high school, and my friends and I arrived at the Kansas City Memorial Auditorium on a snowy December evening for a great triple bill: Fleetwood Mac (the original band, with Peter Green) was the opener, Jethro Tull up next and rounding out the marquee, Cocker.

Because of the weather, and it being a school night so close to Christmas, the crowd was small. In fact, the emcee invited all of us in the balcony to come down to the front of the house to fill it up. We had just settled into our sweet new seats when the acid kicked in.


The sonic beats of Fleetwood Mac had heavy emphasis on the rhythm section, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull dressed like a resident of Sherwood Forest, swirling across the stage, the sound of his flute bouncing off the walls around us. And then there was Cocker. A white man with a voice like Ray Charles, his face grimacing to reach every note, his body writhing, not in rhythm with the music, but to its own almost spastic glory. From Woodstock to Mad Dogs and Englishmen (one of the best live albums of all time), Joe is still out there getting it done. As am I. Getting old can be a bitch, but it beats the alternative.

A wonderful array of artists are in town for Sonoma Jazz+, minus the jazz, and a tooth. Cocker performs with Keb’ Mo’ on Friday, May 22, at the Field of Dreams, 151 First St. W., Sonoma. 6:30pm. $54&–$104.