Joe Cocker sadly left us four years ago, but his legacy and music catalog are enormous. One of his most enduring songs is his 1968 cover of The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends," and in the spirit of that song, a group of local musicians is coming together next month to raise money for a pair of good causes.
"With My Friends: The Joe Cocker Tribute" takes place Friday, Oct. 12, at Zorba Music Hall at The Olympia Restaurant.
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and "Joe Cocker" (in this case played by Marin Marin) lost his father to Alzheimer's Disease, so the event will raise money for both causes.
Local musician and music teacher Jim Zaroulis organized the event, bringing together Marin, a Lowell resident, as Cocker, Alan Whitney of Lowell on guitar, Al Bonasoro of Leominster on bass, Chip Abbot of Wilmington on drums, Carl Benevides of North Andover on sax and percussion, and backup singers Jenn Levy of Tewksbury and Giovanna DeMarco of Winchester.
Zaroulis says he met Marin when the former was a teenager. They played together in Zaroulis' first band, with Marin as the guitarist who would also sing in Portuguese and American.
"As great as his guitar playing is, he has a very gritty, yet soulful timbre to his voice, which he credited to being a very avid Joe Cocker fan," Zaroulis says of Marin.
"Being a young teen, I had only heard of Joe Cocker through watching videos of that iconic Woodstock performance and the endless lampooning of his stage antics and unintelligible lyrics."
The most famous of those lampoons, of course, came from John Belushi during a "Saturday Night Live" routine in which Belushi was joined by Cocker on stage.
"Artistically," Zaroulis says, "I always felt he had a voice like no other, and I think that's pretty indisputable."
Zaroulis says Marin saw Cocker at Lowell Memorial Auditorium at a 1989 show that was featured on the 1990 release "Joe Cocker Live."
"I'm pretty sure you can hear Marin screaming amongst the ambient voices," Zaroulis says.
Though the two didn't play together long in that band, Zaroulis and Marin remained friends and would collaborate from time to time over the years. Earlier this year, Marin did a solo Cocker tribute show, singing to karaoke tracks at Zorba Music Hall.
"Luckily, I had an early gig nearby, and I made it a point to see him," Zaroulis says. "I knew it would either be really good or really bad. Needless to say, he was great ... except those backing tracks were such a letdown! You need the energy and the power of a live band if you're going to perform the high-octane music of Joe Cocker. I realized he was onto something that could be fun and rewarding if it was produced correctly, so I told him that night if he could get a rhythm section together, I'll do the rest and we'll perform a legit tribute."
Zaroulis didn't expect to hear back from Marin for months, but later that week, Marin called Zaroulis to tell him he had a bass player and drummer lined up.
"The drummer didn't pan out, so I quickly contacted some colleagues that I felt would be perfect for this project," he says. "These are musicians I've worked with past and present over the years in many different capacities. What's even better is it has brought eight people together that were virtually strangers three months ago who are now friends and possible future collaborators."
Expect to hear pretty much a re-created version of the "Joe Cocker Live" album at the show, which starts at 8:30 p.m., and should run about 90 minutes.
"What better place to celebrate the great album but in the actual city it was performed?" Zaroulis says.
Tickets are $10 each and will be sold at the door and online at www.zorbamusichall.com. You can also make out a check to "Massachusetts General Hospital," and Zaroulis says those donations will be delivered to the two foundations.
The Zorba Room is at 453 Market St., Lowell.
'JOE COCKER LIVE' TRACK LISTING
"Up Where We Belong"
"You Can Leave Your Hat On"
"When the Night Comes"
"Unchain My Heart"
"With a Little Help from My Friends"
"You Are So Beautiful"
"She Came in Through the Bathroom Window"
"High Time We Went"