Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | Gag Me
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Gag Me

I just heard one of the most gawdawful songs of the rock and roll era — or any era, for that matter — on CNN.

I was working away, and the TV outside my office door started playing Joe Cocker‘s 1973 Top 40 hit, “You Are So Beautiful.” The sound stopped me cold, and I got all shakey and felt like vomiting.

Man, I hated that song in high school when it came out — we used to make merciless fun of it whenever it came on the radio. At first, until it became a megahit, even the progressive FM radio stations would play it. We’d howl and pop in something appropriately obnoxious like ZZ Top’s “Tres Hombres” (OK, so we weren’t cool early punk kids, we were midwestern country-rocking, blues-loving music fans, and besides, this was before ZZ Top turned into a parody of themselves) to clear out the Cocker stench and exorcise the car.

What was ironic was that Joe Cocker until this point had all the street cred of a prog-rock god. He’d come roaring out of the British blues scene in the late ’60s and was an FM favorite with his rough and tumble voice and rowdy blooz-rock groove on classic early albums such as “With a Little Help from My Friends” and “Mad Dog and Englishmen.” He wasn’t a songwriter, but he could sing the hell out of someone else’s song, and make it his own — his other early hit was a gravely version of the Beatles’ “She Came in through the Bathroom Window.”

This wretched ballad was co-written by Billy “the later fifth Beatle” Preston and Bruce Fisher, and who knows why Cocker chose to record it. He musta really really been in L-U-V love.

By the late ’70s, when John Belushi satirized Cocker’s spastic movements when he sang as one of the recurring skits on “Saturday Night Live,” Joe deserved the drubbing. He’s veered between between a pop singer and an oldies rocker ever since.

So what the hell was it doing on CNN? I thought maybe Cocker had died (he lives in the Colorado mountains these days, running a diner with his wife), and I thought CNN had made a lousy choice of song to go with the report.

Nope, it was the backing for a commercial for eTrade. Ouch. Gross.

How uncool is that?