Here’s a video of Joe Cocker singing Dave Mason’s Traffic classic, “Feelin Alright”. The piano intro to this song is one of rock’s most recognized piano licks, originally played by Artie Butler on Joe Cocker’s debut album With a Little Help from My Friends. This “Feelin Alright” video features session and stage keyboardist, Mark Alexander.
Joe Cocker was known for surrounding himself with the top musicians in the music industry. Guitar greats Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton all made their way into a Cocker session. Saxophone phenom, Bobby Keys notoriously known for his work with the Rolling Stones shared his chops on the “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” (1970) live and “Jamaica Say You Will” (1975) albums. Clarence Clemens played sax on “Unchain My Heart” (1987). But for vocalists and keyboard players, landing a gig with Joe Cocker was a right of passage into rock stardom and a pathway to the rock ‘n roll hall of fame. Legendary singers, Claudia Linnear, Rita Coolidge, Bonnie Bramlett, Merry Clayton, Robert Palmer, Jimmy Cliff, Phoebe Snow, Bryan Adams, Tata Vega and Vaneese Thomas… all sang backing vocals for Joe Cocker.
Even more impressive than Joe Cocker’s list of backing singers, though, is the list of keyboardists who played with him. Ask your average rock fan who played keyboards for Joe Cocker and most will say Chris Stainton or Leon Russell. Granted Chris Stainton played Woodstock with Cocker and sat in on more studio albums with him than any other keyboardist and Leon Russell did direct the infamous “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” tour. But in four decades of recording and touring piano players Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Benmont Tench, Ian McLagan, Steve Winwood, Billy Preston, Richard Tee, Donny Hathaway, Artie Butler, Greg Philingames, and Nicky Hopkins all made it into the studio or on the road with Joe Cocker. These are the best of the best pianists in rock and roll.
Mark Alexander is not a household name to the average rock fan but like all the other keyboardists who recorded or toured with Cocker, Mark Alexander is a monster player. He’s worked with Little Steven, The E Street Band, Darlene Love, The Rascals, and has played keys on a number of Broadway shows, including Billy Joel’s “Movin Out”. You hear of musicians having perfect pitch; where they can recognize musical notes the way the average person sees colors. But the more elusive talent is perfect rhythm. In Mark’s piano intro to “Feelin’ Alright”, he locks down the tempo which drives the complete performance. Mark’s rhythm is exact- he is the keyboardist, the drummer and the bass player all in one. At IROCKU we have been fortunate that Mark has been one of our musical advisors since the website’s inception. If you are interested in taking a private lesson with Mark please click here:
Here’s the rundown of keyboardists who played with Joe Cocker.
|“With a Little Help from My Friends” (1969)||Chris Stainton, Tommy Eyre, Artie Butler, Matthew Fisher, Steve Winwood|
|“Joe Cocker!” (1969)||Chris Stainton|
|“Mad Dogs & Englishmen” (1970)||Leon Russell, Chris Stainton|
|“Joe Cocker” (1972)||Chris Stainton|
|“ I Can Stand a Little Rain ( 1974)||Nicky Hopkins, Greg Mathieson, David Paich, Peggy Sandvig, Jim Price, Richard Tee|
|“Jamaica Say You Will” (1975)||Jim Price, Richard Tee, Jean Roussel, Nicky Hopkins|
|“Stingray” (1976)||Richard Tee|
|“Luxury You Can Afford” (1978)||Donny Hathaway, Richard Tee, Billy Preston, Allen Toussaint, Barry Beckett, Randy McCormick|
|“Sheffield Steel” (1982)||Wally Badarou|
|“Civilized Man” (1984)||David Briggs, Rob Mounsey, David Paich, Gre Phillinganes, Bob Telson, Shane Keister, Randy McCormick|
|“Cocker” (1986)||Mike Moran, Arthur Barrow, Jeff Lorber, Larry Marshall, Jeff Bova, Michael Boddicker, Howard Hersh|
|“Unchain My Heart” (1987)||Greg Johnson, Robbie Kilgore, Jeff Levine|
|“One Night of Sin” (1989)||Chris Stainton, Jeff Levine|
|“Night Calls” (1991)||Rory Kaplan, Ian McClagan, John Miles, David Paich, Chris Stainton, Benmont Tench|
|“Have a Little Faith” (1994)||Chris Stainton, Cj Vanston|
|“Organic” (1996)||Jamie Muhoberac, Randy Newman, Billy Preston, Chris Stainton|
|“Across from Midnight” (1997)||Steve PIgott, Chris Stainton, CJ Vanston|
|“Across from Midnight-Live In Berlin” (1997)||Mark Alexander, Ken Strange|
|“No Ordinary World” (1998)||CJ Vanston, Peter-John Vettese, Peter Gordeno, Jason Rebello, Chris Elliot, John Savannah|
|“Respect Yourself” (2002)||CJ Vanston, Patrick Warren|
|“Heart & Soul” (2004)||CJ Vanston|
|“Hymn for My Soul” (2007)||Dave Palmer|
|“Hard Knocks” (2010)||Jamie Muhoberac, Matt Serietic, Steve Nathan|
|“Fire it Up” (2012)||Jamie Muhoberac, Mike Finnigan, Matt Serletic|
Learn how to play rock and blues piano from one of rock’s greatest. Chuck Leavell, legendary keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, The Allman Bros, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and more.