As the 70s opened and my mid teens beckoned, Joe could do no wrong, his Tourette inspired flailing arms and contortions denoting the template of my then dancing style. As he moved into the rock'n'roll circus of Mad Dogs and Englishman, my fantasies of life on the road became further fuelled by tales of excesses, usually holding the image of a bra-less Rita Coolidge well to the fore. Still the sidesmen and the material was exemplary, as was his voice, though perhaps the seeds of its demise were hereby being sown, alcohol getting a hold on his well-being and depression a hold on his mind. He effectively retired for two years, before returning to the live arena in 1972, the subsequent few years marred by a dalliance with heroin and further descent into alcoholism, with the full rack of onstage drunkenness, vomiting and all. To any eye he seemed close to burn and his sales were reflecting this.
In 1976 the unexpected arose and despite major debts, he became signed to a new manager, producer Michael Lang, on the condition he remained sober, getting shakily back into his stride, garnishing a Grammy nomination along the way for his work with the Crusaders. I should also mention he also gave due credit to his wife for the turnaround in lifestyle and fortune. His next stroke of luck was his involvement with Jennifer Warnes for the film soundtrack of "An Officer and a Gentleman". Most of his existing fans may disagree, let alone those of his duet partner, but this ghastly epitome of schlock, I forget it's name (ha!), was massive and catapulted him back into the recognition both of a public who had forgotten him, or had never heard of him in the first place. This time he got the Grammy. This allowed him the recognition and the kudos to keep touring and to put out regular recordings, all bolstered by a canny intuition to continue to ally himself with film soundtracks. It's true he never managed as memorable recordings as within his early years, but the choice of material always remained top-notch, mostly with an ear to the songs and the songwriters who count, making the credits always worth a good read, sometimes pointing towards their originators as much as this consummate interpreter.
Here's a selection of my favourites:
Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
Do I Still Figure In Your Life
My Father's Son
Many Rivers To Cross (live)
And yes, it is still dear old Chris Stainton playing in that last clip!
What to buy? Hell, I don't know. There are a stash of Greatest Hits collections that might suit some. Personally it would be always be this , sorry only that the full majesty of the picture really needs gatefold vinyl