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Weekend Songs: Joe Cocker, ‘Feelin’ Alright’

Classic rock is about heavy hooks, power chords and tight harmonies. But it’s also about letting loose and enjoying the good times. And there’s no better time for that than Friday evening, when we pick up our paycheck, punch out of work and enjoy a couple days of much-needed rest and relaxation.

It’s that time of week when we’re feelin’ all right, which makes it the perfect excuse to spend a few minutes soaking in the sweaty Northern soul of Joe Cocker, who scored a medium-sized chart hit (which evolved into an enduring classic-rock radio staple) with ‘Feelin’ Alright’ in 1969. The following year, he kept the song in the set list for ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen,’ his signature live LP and one of the best concert recordings of the ’70s.

Both versions proved substantially different from the original ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ written by Traffic guitarist Dave Mason for the band’s self-titled 1968 album. Simply constructed and relatively easy to play, the song proved marvelously malleable for Cocker’s band, morphing from a sunny ode to happy times into a piano-fueled boogie number that just about dares the listener not to move.

While Cocker’s studio version rose to No. 69 on the pop charts during its initial release, and eventually cracked the Top 40 when it was reissued a few years later, it’s probably the ‘Mad Dogs’ live recording that’s slightly better known — and for good reason, given that he was performing with a stellar band that included musical director Leon Russell.

While Cocker was one of the first to put his own stamp on ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ he was hardly alone; in fact, a wide variety of artists covered the track throughout the decade, including Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, the Jackson 5, Mother’s Finest, the Ohio Players and others. (In subsequent decades, classic-minded acts such as the Black Crowes added their own versions to the list.) Still, when you think of this song, it’s probably that distinctive piano riff that comes to mind. He may not have written it, but like so many of his other covers, Cocker made ‘Feelin’ Alright’ truly his own.

On this fine Friday afternoon, we’re guessing you’re just about ready to do a little feelin’ alright of your own — so even if it isn’t quite closing time just yet, why don’t you scroll on up to the video above featuring a vintage live Joe Cocker performance of the song, hit ‘play,’ turn up the volume and let the weekend start now?

Next: A Sweet Flower from the Dead

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