Story By: G. H. HARDING

Joe Cocker In Concert

RIP JOE --- What a staggering loss Joe Cocker is to everyone who loved his voice, his career and his inspiration. I first became aware of him through his participation at Woodstock and his singular voice and continued to love everything he did; his work with Leon Russell and his 48-city Mad Dogs & Englishmen Tour (1969-1971), which drummer Jim Keltner described as a big, wild party) just off the charts. He passed at 70 from a long bout with cancer; but, as one critic posited, He did a lot of living in those 70 years. Major, major loss for the industry and the world.

Paul McCartney said, “It’s really sad to hear about Joe’s passing. He was a lovely northern lad who I loved a lot and like many people I loved his singing. I was especially pleased when he decided to cover ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ and I remember him and Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Saville Row and playing me what they’d recorded and it was just mind blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful for him for doing that. I knew him through the years as a good mate and I was so sad to hear that he had been ill... He was a great guy, a lovely guy who brought so much to the world and we’ll all miss him.”

Graham Nash said, “This is sad news indeed. What a unique and great musician he was. Everything was from his heart.”

And, Peter Frampton, "So sad to hear of Joe Cocker's passing. 'You Are So Beautiful' is both Joe and Nicky Hopkins' piano at their very best. Gonna play it now. Rest in peace."

For Joe, with Leon Russell, 1970’s “She Came In Through The Bathroom Window”:

BIRDMAN DROPPINGS -- I always knew the Oscar competition was tough going, but this latest development confounds me even more:

Jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez's excellently and nuanced improvised rhythms that brilliantly power the acclaimed drama Birdman looked like a strong contender for an original-score nomination going into the Oscars.

His drum-heavy score — already nominated for a Golden Globe and a Critics' Choice Award — has been disqualified from Oscar consideration as of this week.

In a statement released Tuesday, Sanchez said his work on director Alejandro González Iñárritu's drama, featuring Michael Keaton as a washed-up superhero-movie star attempting to re-boot his career, was deemed ineligible by the Academy's music branch "even after receiving a detailed cue sheet, a letter from the president of music at Fox studios and a description of the process from both Alejandro and myself."

Sanchez's score has won year-end awards from critics' organizations in St. Louis, Austin, Las Vegas and Phoenix while also being honored by groups in Houston, Chicago San Diego and Washington.

Although he strongly disagrees, Sanchez feels the disqualification stems from the "perception" that his score was diluted by incidental music from the likes of classical-artists Mahler and Tchaikovsky used in the film.

"The music that people remember after watching the movie is the sound, originality, character and strength of my score, which seems to be the reason it continues to receive attention, nominations and awards, which I'm deeply humbled by," Sanchez said. "Some of the finest composers are members of the Academy, and I'm saddened my score didn't resonate with the decision makers."

This is a tremendous injustice by the Academy as Sanchez’s brilliant music is one of the best movie and most innovative scores I've ever heard in a movie. The fact that the Academy can't, or won't recognize, it is a real shame. They sound very much like to many NARAS members. Shame on them.

CLOSING NOTES --- Big Eyes’ Amy Adams was booted from an appearance Monday on NBC’s The Today Show because she wouldn't speak to the recent Sony-hack. Wow. Reports quickly surfaced that Adams displayed an unprofessional attitude when interviewed beforehand and it was video-taped, prompting Big Eyes’ producer Harvey (The Man) Weinstein to pay for an investigation. Memo to Today’s Don Nash: What is going on there? The show’s Matt Lauer called Weinstein and tried to smooth it over, but big Harvey is demanding a government-like review. My prediction: Adams will be back there shortly and NOT discuss the hack …

Sony’s Rory Bruer said that more than 300 theaters have lined up to screen The Interview. That total includes most major cities — New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Cleveland, Phoenix and Dallas among them - more theaters than anyone expected and the fact that Sony is still finalizing plans to simultaneously release The Interview via a VOD/streaming strategy. I think it’s still a confounding situation; to play or not to play. I hope nothing occurs, because if it does, Sony will be the one that people go after. One fellow posted that this whole thing has been an elaborate PR-scheme by Sony. In terms of cynics, I’m in the Top Ten for sure, but, even I have a hard time believing this. Was Obama and the FBI in on it too? …

The trailer for the movie of Entourage was released yesterday. I can say without fail, that if you loved this series you’ll love this movie. Take a look HERE...

We're back Monday – have a safe Xmas …