Our Demons Could Deserve a Furnace-Like Roar

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 Of Minds And Mixtapes 0 Comments

Of Minds & Mixtapes | Zaheera Vaz

It's amazing how one's life, however bruised and tattered, can be sewn together by the acts of sheer courage and simple kindness -- towards others, (and more importantly) towards oneself -- which ultimately designs the majesty of one's poignant life, regardless of how tumultuous or obscure; coz the silent storms and screeching obscurities are what stain the threads we're woven of. They make us us.
And if we're lucky (yes, lady luck would have a role to play here considering the times we live in) there could be folks who will remember our lives to be more than just the thread count. They'd remember us for our stains; what we did with, and despite, them.

Our demons are not really meant to be tamed. They are ourselves. They are our anger, our fears, our vices, our vanity, our insanity, our jealousy, our greed, our cowardice. I believe there is no transcending them. Everyone around us carries them along; some visible, some we choose not to see.

There are countless stories of folks trying their best to hold their ruptured selves together, with their demons and their dreams, weathering WTF moments along the way. We might know some personally, we may have learned of some somewhere. One such story is John Robert Cocker a.k.a Joe Cocker, whose voice I heard growing up. Didn't have a choice really -- my dad rewound and played his songs countless times, and there were days you'd hear it everywhere; the balcony, the car, the kitchen, the terrace. Actually, wherever my dad could take his stereo. I was familiar with Joe Cocker's music at an early age. I didn't learn of his life however until Cocker died.

Singing with a sandpapered desperation that was as distinct as his spasmic movements, Joe Cocker brought a refreshing sound to the 60s despite his non original songs. The boozy, tattered-ness of his voice, always gave the sense that he's about to break into tears -- he lent that amount of emotion to whatever he was singing, and is thus rightly credited for having more fun with the songs than the original. His cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends" reached number one in the UK in 1968. His version did so well that he went on to perform the song at the famous Woodstock Festival in New York a year later. Here it is:


Born in England in 1944, he left school at 15 to work as a gas fitter. He performed in pubs and clubs, but by end 60s Cocker had established himself as rock's new provocative soul singer. Living on a bottle of bourbon and 80 cigarettes a day, Cocker spent much of the 70s in an alcohol and drug-fuelled haze. He toured US and Europe, but was forced to leave Australia overnight with his band members to avoid being charged for assault, having already been fined Aus $1,200 for drug offences. One of his lowest points was in 1974 when the curtain was opened for a performance in Los Angeles and Cocker appeared in a vomit-encrusted jacket and cast-off jeans; he was curled into the foetal position and was unable to continue. It was common knowledge that Cocker would start drinking at 11 in the morning and be pretty wasted by evening.

But the guy was a survivor. Though he wrestled with his demons and life-threatening addictions to whisky and heroin which caused him to suffer from memory lapses, and despite his “foetal” performance in 1974, Cocker’s voice ensured that the curtain never quite closed on his career. When he could make it to the studio, he did manage to enjoy periodic chart success in the 70s, 80s and 90s with a series of albums like – I Can Stand A Little Rain (1974), Stingray (1976), Luxury You Can Afford (1978), Standing Tall (1981), Unchain My Heart (1987), One Night Of Sin (1989), Night Calls (1992), Have a Little Faith (1994).

The Oscar and Grammy winning 1982 hit "Up Where We Belong" recorded by Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for the movie from An Officer And A Gentleman, is another one of his memorable hits.

In his last couple decades, renewed success brought relative harmony to Cocker’s life. He opened a cafĂ©, quit using heroin, traded whisky for beer, and after a long struggle, overcame his nicotine addiction. He was considered one of the music industry’s most celebrated survivors and was accorded appropriate respect. For his work in music, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2007.

Cocker's last album titled Fire It Up was released in 2012 which achieved platinum sales. It was a defiant legend displaying his grit again. When I first heard it, Cocker sounded a little more vulnerable and a lot older; charming, but old.

Demetri Martin @ Of Minds & Mixtapes
Its stories like this that attests to Demetri Martin's success chart. Everyone faces unexpected obstacles and detours in their path — those it’s-always-darkest-before-the-dawn moments. Things that hold us down. We can neither get over our demons nor disregard them. Awareness, however, would help so that we're not enslaved by them to an extent that we find ourselves in the pits of anxiety and depression, unable to muster kindness and courage, for others and ourselves alike.