'American Idol' Alums Casey Abrams, Taylor Hicks, More Remember Joe Cocker

Yvette Roman

Casey Abrams

"To make a hit that was already a hit ... an even bigger hit, that's hard to do," said Phillip Phillips of the late singer.

When Casey Abrams competed on the tenth season of American Idol, he was asked to perform music inspired by their own musical idols. Abrams didn’t even have to think about it: he chose Joe Cocker.

“He was one of the first guys I was introduced to that really felt the music as opposed to just hearing it, you know?” Abrams tells The Hollywood Reporter. “He wasn’t just singing it, but the music was pulsating throughout his whole body. His body had to play music and he let it come through him.”

Joe Cocker: Looking Back at 50 Years of Music, In His Own Words

Abrams, who paid tribute to Cocker with his interpretation of The Beatles’ “A Little Help From My Friends," says the singer's Dec. 22 passing at the age of 70 hits hard for fans of music, and adds that Cocker’s voice was one-of-a-kind. “It’s grittiness, and it’s real energy. It’s not autotuned."

Indeed, Cocker's songs were a favorite go-to for Idol finalists. Season-five winner Taylor Hicks was one such devotee: he performed Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful” during the competition. "We spoke at length about life and music," Hicks tells THR. "He wanted to thank me for performing the song. We had worked with some of the same musicians along the way. He was a really cool inspiring person. I hope that everyone will be able to share in his musical joy for a long time."

In interviews following the singer's death, season-11 winner Phillip Phillips also sang Cocker's praise, telling ABCNewsRadio, “There's a lot of people that can change up songs but to make a hit that was already a hit ... an even bigger hit, that's hard to do.”

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Season nine alum Crystal Bowersox, who performed alongside Cocker with winner Lee DeWyze, expressed her sadness on Facebook, writing: “He was a musical inspiration to me and so many, and was one of the sweetest souls I ever had the pleasure of performing with."

DeWyze took to Instagram to express his own condolences. "I will never forget how amazing it was to share a stage with him,” he wrote. “The energy, and emotion that he put into every song...a true talent. I'll never forget our talk."

Watch Abrams' and Hicks' interpretations of Cocker's music — and DeWyze and Bowersox performing alongside the man himself — below:


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