With A Little Help From My Friends

Woodstock 1969, Joe, “Remember it!”

On 22 December 2014 we lost a large voice that defined a generation, a voice that also epitomized the heart and soul of Sheffield born singer Joe Cocker. For this writer 1969 was an interesting year. The family Ferguson had been back in Canada for two years and I had discovered ice hockey, hockey cards, outdoor rinks, and television. Our years in Europe bring back few memories of that media though one is of Yogi Bear on our German landlord’s black and white television – near to her oil painting portrait of her husband, lost to her during the Second World War. Without a television in Sardinia I remember the Grey Cup game, East vs. West, played on the Poetto beach by Canadian service personnel, where further along there were concrete fortifications and then of course there was the first snowfall in 75 years much to the angst of my parents.

It was in Nova Scotia, however, where I learned via television more and more of the day to day events of the Vietnam War reported through the voice of Walter Cronkite who also reported on what, at the time, seemed like an unlikely event that spoke of generational divide and heralded a new vision where music defined the speech of the young…and where today that generation asks “Do you remember Woodstock”?

I will miss Joe Cocker, his voice and delivery. We have lost a part of ourselves that whether we know it or not has been the glaze upon our souls. I never saw him, but he was always one of those acts that you hoped you might see, however I did listen to his soulful anthem, “With a Little Help From My Friends”, often, but I cannot tell you when I first heard the song. Maybe I want to believe it was in 1969 Nova Scotia with Woodstock in the news.

I had been to live performances, but never outdoors. The first concert I seem to recall was Canada’s Tommy Hunter on a Canadian armed forces base sometime prior to 1967. Then there was Johnny Gold in Nova Scotia who we saw as part of a television studio audience. The greatest in-person Nova Scotia concert though…Johnny Cash. What a magnificent performance to witness as the man in black stood on stage a few rows in front of me and at a time when I was under 10 years of age.

Music has been one of the greatest gifts from my father, who played endless tracks of vinyl that took on many forms…traditional, big band, folk, and so much variety in instrumentation. Somehow it became ingrained in me, recorder, clarinet and ultimately guitar. The guitar fascinated me, allowing me to explore new depths of creativity. And how did I learn? I wrote songs, learned the fingerboard and changed it up all the time. Now when I look back upon my musical life I think about my early emulations of talent. I recall playing Beatles air guitar in the school playgrounds at Zweibrucken, Germany in the early 1960s and skating in circles in the late 1960s to Beatles’ music at the ice rink in Nova Scotia. In 1970 British Columbia I recall the first Led Zeppelin record I heard, then journeyed through some dark metal that eerily caught my interest and attention as the steady Ionomi drone appealed to my teenage experience. There would be more, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Kiss, (their first live album), Aerosmith, Queen and of course Rush who led to my desire to own a hollow body. I journeyed on, changing tastes leading to the searing tones and acoustic delicacies from Pink Floyd and how can I ever forget Jeff Beck in concert, Vancouver 1980. These were defining moments at least in my youth and yes I would like to think they were born from that 1969 concert at a little place called Woodstock.

Returning to the voice of today’s blog, I ask what did Joe Cocker mean to me? What has been lost this holiday season is the voice of a generation and perhaps I too have lost a little of that glazing or crackling that captures our own sweet, sweet heart. Dazzling the world with his Woodstock performance Joe Cocker gave us “With A Little Help From My Friends” and turned this Ringo led Beatles classic into his own. This performance defines the definition of creativity, gave this writer the desire to seek new boundaries of expression. I was too young to go to Woodstock and too curious about a place called Vietnam. Somehow the two interests, music and history, came together allowing me to seek, through creative expression, a voice searching for regeneration from the wreckage that mankind can wield.

If I could speak with Joe Cocker I might tell him that this is one life that was inspired by his voice – that delivery – some 45 years ago. Our loss makes me write, it helps regenerate that part of the glaze that has left me. All these influences that we hold onto, our mentors and teachers define our own wanderings. Joe Cocker’s voice at Woodstock sits in my heart, it is more than a glaze it is a traditional finish, polished into the soul, and I will, with a little help from my friends, make tomorrow a new day where I will find a little bit more of myself once again.


About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and in Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was further amazed by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Film captivated Paul and with time he became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was entranced when he learned Weir had visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. The film "Gallipoli" alone led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii and Gallipoli. It was, however, when Paul watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", that Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests would be a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, he believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


One Response to “With A Little Help From My Friends”

  1. pferguson pferguson says:

    After a musical night and a return to Joe and Woodstock a little new glazing was in need. Updated July 26, 2018.

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