For the short amount of time he had on this earth, Eddie Cochran made a big impression on the American audience. This classic rock and roll star forever earned his place as one of the most iconic musicians ever to grace the radio station. Not only was he a talented vocal artist but was an accomplished multi-instrument musician that could pick the bass and guitar, play the drums, and tickle the keys of the piano. This rebellious star won over the younger audience while he was still just a teenager during the mid-1950s and continued to wow the crowd until his tragic passing on April 17, 1960, at just twenty-one years old. He was on tour in Britain when the vehicle he was traveling in was in an accident that had the young man rushed to St. Martin’s Hospital in Bath, Somerset, England, before succumbing to his injuries to the shock and dismay of millions.
Born Ray Edward Cochran on October 3, 1938, in Minnesota, he and his family later moved to California in 1952. While attending junior high, he formed a band with a pair of friends before attending and dropping out of Bell Gardens High School so he could further pursue his musical career. In the process, he met a songwriter named Hank Cochran. Despite these two men sharing the exact same last name, neither are related to the other. They did, however, first perform as the Cochran Brothers, which included recording a few singles for Ekko Records before Eddie went solo during the summer of 1956.
1956 was the official breakthrough year for Eddie Cochran as he not only branched out as a solo artist with “Skinny Jim” but with “Twenty Flight Rock” as well. The second of these two singles were for the 1956 motion picture, The Girl Can’t Help It, which he also happened to star in alongside Jayne Mansfield. Now well on his way to becoming a 1950s teen idol, the young star would also appear in his second movie, 1957’s Untamed Youth. The summer of 1957 also saw Eddie Cochran sign up with Liberty Records, who released his first and only studio album while he was still alive, Singin’ to My Baby. The record included Untamed Youth‘s hit, “Sittin’ in the Balcony,” which was only one of a few rock singles on the album as the label wanted Cochran to move away from the genre of rock and roll.
Come 1958, Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” catapulted his name even further as more than a teen idol. This song served as one of the most important influences on the music industry as a whole, inspiring current and future recording artists on both a lyrical level as well as musical. Not only did this hit serve as an all-American hit but it also reached an international audience as his North American popularity even reached overseas, namely in Ireland, Scotland, and the United Kingdom regions. He, along with his friends, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, seemed to have it made as teen idols who appealed to audiences of all ages.
When Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens perished in the infamous 1959 plane crash that also claimed the life of fellow music star, the Big Bopper, it devastated Eddie Cochran. It was also at this time he admitted he also sensed he would die young as well. In response to his friends’ deaths, he recorded a tribute song dedicated to them, “Three Stars.” It was written by Tommy Dee, a disc jockey who was just as shaken up by the untimely deaths of three brilliant stars who had their lights turned off much too soon. For Cochran, the deaths of his friends gave him cause to spend more time recording music in studios rather than spend so much time on the road. He felt by doing so he could avoid a similar fate of his own. Unfortunately, he was obligated to continue performing at live venues as he was required to live up to financial responsibilities and contract agreements. Because of this, he accepted to travel overseas to the United Kingdom to embark on a tour there.
Starting in January 1960, Eddie Cochrane toured the U.K., along with friend and fellow performer, Gene Vincent. On the fateful evening of April 16, 1960, the two were back on the road after performing at the Bristol Hippodrome, traveling by taxi en route to London, England. Accompanying these two men in the cab was Sharon Sheeley, who was a songwriter and fiancee of Eddie Cochran, as well as his tour manager, Patrick Tompkins. The taxi cab was driven by a nineteen-year-old George Martin, who lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a concrete post in Chippenham, England.
Upon impact, Cochran used his body to protect Sheeley and was ejected from the vehicle when the rear passenger door flung open due to the force of the car’s collision. The blunt force Cochran experienced after hitting the ground caused a massive brain injury he would not recover from. It was later discovered by investigation the reason behind the car accident was a loss of control due to the driver applying too much speed on what was a perfectly dry stretch of road. He was the only passenger in the vehicle not to survive the accident. Eddie Cochrane was pronounced dead on Sunday, April 17, 1960, at the time of 4:10 p.m.
George Martin was convicted of dangerous driving and was supposed to be disqualified from driving for fifteen years. However, going into the eighth year since the accident that killed Eddie Cochran and injured Sheeley, Tompkins, and VIncent, Martin’s suspension was lifted when the judge observed Martin was enduring financial hardship. It should be noted here one of the police cadets at the station that held the taxi cab that took Cochran’s life was David Harman. Music fans may recognize him as Dave Dee of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich fame. He admitted while he was still a cadet, he played on Eddie Cochran’s guitar that also happened to be held at the station during his time there.
Eddie Cochran Legacy
After Eddie Cochran’s death, there were twenty-seven compilation albums released, along with three live albums, and nineteen extended plays (EPs). In total, there are twenty singles to his credit and four of them were released posthumously. “C’mon Everybody,” “Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie,” and “Summertime Blues” each experienced at least one re-release since his death and as hits for at least a second time on some of the official music charts. In 1987, twenty-seven years after his death, Eddie Cochran was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The influence of Eddie Cochran was so great that if Paul McCartney didn’t know how to perform “Twenty Flight Rock” as well as he did, John Lennon never would have invited him to join The Beatles. Furthermore, Cochran was among the first recording artists of the rock and roll genre to write his own songs, bend notes, and overdub tracks. This musical style of his triggered a flurry of top-name recording artists to not only cover many of his songs but adopt this exact same technique as part of their own musical repertoire.
Top 10 Eddie Cochran Songs
#10 – Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie
When “Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie” was first released as a single in 1958, it became a ninety-four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. When it was released posthumously in 1961, it became a number thirty-one hit on the official UK Singles Chart. This was the song that inspired the Stray Cats to record a version of it in 1981, which was a considerably raunchier version than Eddie Cochran’s original as a narrator infatuated with his love interest whom he sang about.
As for Cochran, what inspired him was the song itself as he enjoyed it so much while part of the Guyden Records crew as were performing it that he asked for permission to record “Jeannie, Jeannie, Jeannie” as his own. At the time, Cochran was among several new rival rock musicians that were each struggling against each other to wow the crowd. Unlike the majority of them, Cochran responded to his own beat as an independent drummer, which is what made him so influential to scores of artists who would be inspired by the young man and his incredible musical talent.
#9 – Hallelujah, I Love Her So
In 1956, Ray Charles performed “Hallelujah, I Love Her So,” which became a number five hit for him on the US Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. For Eddie Cochran, his rockability version as a declaration of his love for his significant other also featured a fantastic gospel feel to this classic that has since become a cult favorite. For Cochran, it became a number twenty-two hit in the UK and a number forty-five hit in Australia.
#8 – Teenage Heaven
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Teenage Heaven” squeaked in at number ninety-nine. This was a song for Eddie Cochran’s third and final movie he starred in, Go, Johnny, Go!. This 1959 classic was one of two songs recorded for the movie but the only one kept in it while “I Remember” was edited out. While the music critics and entertainment writers describe Cochran as an artist who capitalized on teenage angst as a well-dressed rebel, the real genius behind the young man was his incredible talent with the guitar. Long before Eddie Van Halen’s title as one of the best guitarists in rock and roll history, Cochran already honed in on this as a niche of his own. Interestingly enough, “Teenage Heaven” was more boogie-woogie than it was rebellious, which makes this a standout classic.
#7 – Somethin’ Else
“Somethin’ Else” became a charming rockabilly classic after Eddie Cochran’s 1959 release, which was co-written by his girlfriend at the time, Sharon Sheeley, and his older brother, Bob. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number fifty-eight hit while in the UK it peaked as high as number twenty-two. In this lyrical tale, the narrator wanted a convertible but was unable to afford it as he strove to impress a love interest he wanted to pursue. By the time the song is over, he purchased an older vehicle and worked up the courage to ask her out anyway. This song, which was already a fan favorite after it was first released in 1959, increased in popularity after Cochran’s death in 1960 as the audience found themselves even more drawn to this fantastic song sung by an incredibly talented vocal artist. In 1988, it was released again as a single in the UK and came in at number one hundred in what was its second appearance on the UK Singles Chart.
#6 – Weekend
On the UK Singles Chart, “Weekend” became a number fifteen hit in 1961, making it the third of four posthumous hits credited to Eddie Cochran since his death in 1960. Short and sweet at two minutes, the ode to a fun weekend cut short by a nosy police officer was one of those songs that recognized Cochran as a rock and roll rebel during an era that also featured squeaky clean personas of entertainers that were in stark contrast to his style.
This rebelliousness as a performer may have been part of the reason why he didn’t earn the amount of chart success as he should have at the time but it was more about giving what the young audience wanted and not always so much about catering to corporate expectations. “Weekend” served as a musical reflection of allowing whatever opportunity we have to let our hair down and simply enjoy whatever time we have while we have it.
#5 – Sittin’ in the Balcony
On the US Billboard Hot 100, Eddie Cochran’s “Sittin’ in the Balcony” became a number eighteen hit while he was with the label, Liberty Records, as well as a number twenty-three hit in Canada and the UK. This single, along with his 1957 performance in Untamed Youth, heightened his name as a teen idol as an actor and a singer at that time. This was Cochran’s debut single while with the label and it was the first time he performed a song that appeared on any of the official music charts, which also became a number thirty hit in Australia.
#4 – Twenty Flight Rock
“Twenty Flight Rock” was a song performed specifically for the Jayne Mansfield film, The Girl Can’t Help It. The movie was released in 1956 but the single wasn’t until 1957. This rockabilly hit’s first version was recorded by Cochran in 1956 with Connie Smith and Jerry Capehart before it was recorded a second time during the summer of 1957. It would be the second version that would be released as a single. While it may not have impressed the American audience enough to become a hit on any of its US Billboard charts, it was more than enough to wow the European crowd.
In the lyrical tale of a couple sharing an apartment on the twentieth floor, the narrator admitted he had to take the stairs due to the elevator not working at the time. By the time he finally made it home to reach his girlfriend, he was too tired to rock. As a single, “Twenty Flight Rock” impressed the British audience so much at the time that Paul McCartney used it as an audition to win over John Lennon’s approval to join some teenage band nobody knew of at the time. The highlight of “Twenty Flight Rock” was the guitar solo, which became more than enough to see this song covered over and over again by several artists who remain in the agreement is one of the best late 1950s classic rock songs of all time.
#3 – C’mon Everybody
“C’mon Everybody” had a recorded alternative version titled “Let’s Get Together.” The only change to the lyrics of this song is the title phrase. Between the two, “C’mon Everybody” was released first in 1958 as a single and became a number six hit on the UK Singles Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number thirty-five, while in Canada at number thirty-nine. It also became a number twenty hit in the Netherlands and a number eighty-eight hit in Australia.
This festive, lyrical request for everybody to get together and enjoy a great time in the name of rock and roll was a hit then and became a hit the second time around when it was re-released in 1988. On the Irish Singles Chart, it peaked at number seven while on the UK Singles Chart it climbed as high as number fourteen. The memorable shoutout by Cochran is what made “C’mon Everybody” such an iconic fan favorite that still gets listeners today eager to jam it up and join in on the musical fun.
#2 – Three Steps to Heaven
Posthumously released in 1960, “Three Steps to Heaven” may have failed to appear on the US Billboard Hot 100 but it became a number one hit on the Irish Singles Chart and the UK Singles Chart, as well as a number seven hit in Norway and a number ten hit in the Netherlands. This song was recorded in January 1960 and featured Buddy Holly’s Crickets on the instruments. Before Buddy Holly’s death in 1959 from the infamous plane crash that also claimed the life of Ritchie Valens, was good friends with Eddie Cochran. Cochran and Valens were also close.
Their deaths, as well as Big Bopper’s, really hit close to home for Cochran, who also sensed he would also experience a young death of his own. The highlight of “Three Steps to Heaven” was the guitar riff, which inspired David Bowie to use it in his own music for his 1971 album, Hunky Dory. What made this song so special then and why it’s still so special today is also related to its timing as it was recorded three months before he died.
#1 – Summertime Blues
On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran peaked at number eight after it was released in 1958, as well as number ten in Canada, and was a number eighteen hit in Australia and on the UK Singles Chart. This incredibly influential song served as more than just a hit single for the young recording artist as it played its role as one of the revolutionary contributors to the development of both the country music genre as well as rock and roll. Many people will argue including this site, that it was The Who’s live version from Live At Leeds that stands as the definite version of the song
For Alan Jackson, his country cover version became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1994. Jackson, as well as several other recording artists, were inspired by Cochran’s original, and certainly saw it as a musical cure for their respective careers. The lyrical tale of a young man having to deal with the rules laid out by strict parents, a strict boss, and a strict congressman is just as classic today as it was when he first performed this in 1958.
The popularity of “Summertime Blues” for Cochran was so great that it made appearances again on the UK Singles Chart. In 1966, it peaked at number fifty-five, then at number thirty-four in 1968. It made one last hit in 1975, peaking as high as number fifty-three.