Joe Cocker RIP

December 22, 2014

Many years ago, Roger Davies walked into my office in the green bungalow on the A&M lot with a list of issues to cover for his artists.  One was a license of “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker for a major motion picture.  We came to have Joe on the label due to Jerry Moss’s relationship with the late Howie Richmond that also gave us a couple other artists called The Move and Procol Harum back in the day.

Roger’s feeling was that “You Are So Beautiful” was one of Joe’s signature recordings and it had become undervalued due to overlicensing at less than premium prices.  Remember, Joe hadn’t been on A&M for years, but when you have a catalog of classic recordings by an artist who was as much of a creative force as Joe Cocker, those relationships are timeless.  Also remember that Roger Davies had just pulled off the revival of Tina Turner’s career (and we had released “River Deep, Mountain High” by Ike & Tina Turner).

So I was very much interested in respecting that history.  I asked Roger what he had in mind, and he said $250,000.

Now, that’s a lot of money for a licensed track, even for an end title.  I kind of looked at him.

And another $250,000 for trailers.

I said, just so I have this straight, you want $500,000 for an end title license on a 20 year old master?

That was, of course, exactly what Roger wanted.  This was not going to go over well.  I thought about it for a few seconds and then thought, fuck it.

I put in a call to the head of music for the major studio that was releasing the picture and said I got your request here for Joe Cocker.  The quote is 250.

He said, 250….?

Thousand.

Silence

I looked at Roger and he looked at me while we all sat there for a minute in silence.  The head of music said what do I get for $250,000.  I said, good point, the trailers are another $250,000.

Silence.

He said, I’ll get back to you.

And we closed on that deal.

Of course Roger wanted Joe’s share paid through off contract and of course seeing as it was A&M and as it was Roger Davies (who also managed Janet Jackson) and as it was Joe Cocker, I passed through Joe’s share about 10 days after we got paid.

None of that would happen today, but it was a good lesson in how a great manager handles a cherished artist.  Joe was happy, Roger was happy and we were happy.  I assume the studio was not all that happy, but the director was happy and it was a tasteful use of Joe’s music.  The studio would get over it.

Could I have come up with some greedy major label bullshit to hold onto the money?  Sure.  I could have.

I still see that movie on cable and get a kick out of hearing Joe in the end titles.  We did a few other things to help Joe have an easier life, and I was happy to do everything we could for an artist beyond category who we were proud to have had on the label.  I don’t know as it was always that way or if it is still that way, but it was that way when I was able to call the shots.

We need to cherish our artists and respect their memories.  Joe Cocker is one more reason why we need to get all artists paid for radio play.

  1. D. Rosen
    December 24, 2014 at 04:58

    “[C]herish our artists and respect their memories.”
    A fine story for Christmas Eve.

  2. December 31, 2014 at 10:50
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