Thursday, September 24, 2009

Joe Cocker

Not long ago I watched Woodstock (I'd seen snippets before but never the whole thing). One observation: in the movie Taking Woodstock that came out last month, Eugene Levy is perfectly cast, because Max Yasgur actually looked and sounded a lot like Eugene already.

I've seen Joe Cocker perform a number of times, including the famous Saturday Night Live performance with John Belushi standing alongside him doing the same thing. One can't help notice those erratic movements he's making, and how similar they look to the kinds of movements that people with certain developmental or neurological disorders tend to make. But one thing that struck me when I saw that SNL episode all those years ago was that he didn't do those things at all unless he was singing.

The possibility exists that it's all affected, that he does it on purpose. It has become a hallmark, a signature, so that could make sense now, but it doesn't make a lot of sense when he was starting in his career: it couldn't've been an asset. And that was long enough ago that the idea of doing it as a gimmick seems unlikely, but who knows? I certainly don't.

But if it's not affected, that makes me intensely curious about whether it's even something he could stop if he wanted to. Is it some kind of odd neurological short-circuit which, if better understood, might even shed some light on the neurological disorders that lead to similar kinds of movements? Why is it linked to singing: is there some part of the brain active when he's singing but not at other times which is involved, and if so, what is that part? Does it happen at other times too?

I don't know much about Joe Cocker. I wonder if he avoids interviews, or if when he gives interviews he prefers not to talk about the odd movements and considers them a distraction from his singing, or what. (He seemed good-natured enough about John Belushi's impersonation though!) I wonder if he's thought about these questions, investigated them, dismissed them.

I wonder if I'm not overthinking the whole thing!

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