Born in Minnesota in 1938, the dashing Edward Ray Cochran was the youngest of five siblings. Though he was the baby of the family, he found his calling quickly after his older brother gifted him a guitar when he was only 6 years old. By the time he was a teen, “Eddie” and his family had moved to a small California suburb, and the blossoming talent took advantage of his newfound close proximity to the entertainment industry. He quickly got to work as a professional performer. His various bands eventually took him across the country, playing small venues and honing their chops.
Influenced by everyone from Elvis to Ernest Tubb and Little Richard, Cochran soon developed his own, revolutionary playing style and became one of rock and roll’s foundational pillars. His bout with international fame while alive was short, but his hits and hard work endured even after he unexpectedly passed away while on tour.
His impact on music reached far and wide, including his friend and fellow fledgling rocker Buddy Holly, and many of the British Invasion acts well into the ’60s. For a sensational walk down memory lane, through the hallways of the rock genre’s earliest, premier recordings, we roll through the best Eddie Cochran songs below.
10. Hallelujah, I Love Her So
In 1960, just as Eddie was embarking on a European tour, he released a cover of ‘Hallelujah, I Lover Her So.’ Ray Charles wrote the R&B number in the early ’50s, and Charles released it as his debut single, receiving much praise over the gospel-inspired tune. A song celebrating the love of your significant other, Eddie held the tune near and dear to his heart as he had been recently engaged to fellow musician Sharon Sheeley when his rendition leapt onto the charts. Though the tune wasn’t one of his big American hits, Cochran’s fans in the UK loved the single and it peaked just outside the top 20 on the charts. Known for his sultry vocals and early rock sound, ‘Hallelujah, I Love Her So’ exemplifies all of Eddie’s finest traits as one of rock and roll’s pioneering forces.
9. Nervous Breakdown
A cutting-edge rock track from the genre’s fledgling days, hints of everyone from Buddy Holly to Elvis Presley can be heard in Eddie Cochran’s delivery of ‘Nervous Breakdown,’ highlighting his command of the rock and roller archetype that drove music forward in an all gas no breaks kind of fashion. Holly and Cochran were good friends, so it’s hard to tell who influenced who more, both ardent studiers of musical technique and composition. Like Holly, Eddie was also an experimenter in the studio. While equipment was still rudimentary, he never shied away from trying out distortion techniques and was one of the first to try his hand at the now-popular overdubbing method that layers tracks over one another. Though he was clean-cut, he became something of a bad boy to teenage fans and really captured the essence of that generation’s yearning for a more exciting life than suburbia offered. This tune offers a revealing look into what made Eddie so unique. And his vocal vibrato artistically emulating a man on the verge of losing his head is spectacular.
8. Sittin’ In The Balcony
With a bluesy electric guitar solo a minute into the track by Eddie himself, his lovey-dovey ‘Sittin’ In The Balcony’ was a top hit in the US in 1957. Songwriter John Dee was the originator of the bouncy tune, and he released a popular version as well just before Cochran recorded it. One of his notable releases, it’s an earlier effort by the rock crooner, and rolls more softly than his later hits that found him really embracing his devil-may-care ways (it was the ’50s, so it was still rather innocently portrayed). This single was released during his time spent with Liberty Records, and the album it’s featured on (Singin’ To My Baby) contains just a few rumbles of his preferred rock and roll styling. In typical label fashion, Liberty wanted to usher him away from rock and more into tried-and-true musical stylings. While his time with the company was short-lived, their work together did produce a few moneymakers like this one.
7. Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie
Eddie was known for his compelling vocal and guitar abilities when it came to the rockabilly subgenre. With him at the forefront, the subgenre became wildly popular in the ’50s. It combined some of America’s best musical elements from core genres like country, blues, and of course the burgeoning rock and roll powerhouse brand. ‘Jeanie, Jeanie, Jeanie’ is a great example of this incoming mid. 20th century musical wave. With an uptempo, sock hop-inspired beat and another masterful vocal performance by the young rocker, at only 20 years old he released singles like this one that showed just how much of a musical visionary he was.
6. Cut Across Shorty
In the late ’50s, Eddie found himself with more creative freedom than ever before and a long list of international bookings thanks to his innovative recordings and ambitious interpretations of some of America’s most endearing contemporary music. But at just 21 years old, he tragically passed away due to a single-car accident while touring in Europe (he wasn’t the one driving). While recording his growly, spirited rendition of ‘Cut Across Shorty,’ no one realized it would be the last song he’d track in the studio. When he reimagined the country-western track, he flawlessly combined some of his greatest influences and made them all his own. From the gritty yet polished vocal attack in the style of his vocalist heroes like Little Richard and Fats Domino, to his acoustic work a la Hank Williams and Lefty Frizell, his take on ‘Cut Across Shorty’ is a creative magnum opus of sorts, and a dazzling last effort by the rock frontiersman.
5. Twenty Flight Rock
An Eddie Cochran original written alongside lyricist Ned Fairchild, ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ features the arduous journey of a dedicated boyfriend hellbent on climbing twenty flights of stairs to get to his girlfriend’s apartment (of course, the elevator’s broken). The rocker of a track is a wordy ditty, but Eddie pulls it off effortlessly. Paul McCartney did too when he used the song as his audition number for the John Lennon band The Quarrymen before The Beatles ever formed. Lennon was impressed and invited McCartney to be a member of his group. The popular UK single was featured in the film, The Girl Can’t Help It, and Cochran can be seen in the film performing part of the tune live.
4. Somethin’ Else
Eddie really gets in his famed rockabilly groove with ‘Somethin’ Else,’ a tune that growls and rattles. Written alongside his brother Bob and his future girlfriend Sharon Sheeley, the tune combines two of rock music’s favorite centerpieces, a beautiful girl and a beautiful car. Sheeley would go on to write several hits for artists including Brenda Lee. The work the trio did with this single was the start of something special. The three musicians would have probably continued collaborating had Cochran outlived his 21st birthday. In a surprising rock song plot twist, Eddie never gets the car he desires so fervently, but he does get the girl.
3. Three Steps To Heaven
A lulling romantic track co-written with fellow songster Jerry Capehart, Cochran’s ‘Three Steps to Heaven’ will have you swooning as he lays out the task at hand that will get you through the pearly gates (hint: Find the one, and love her for the rest of your life). Right away, Buddy Holly’s signature backing vocal sound pops right alongside Cochran’s svelte vocals. Holly’s band, The Crickets, sang backup on the tune just before Holly died in a plane crash in ’59. The song was released posthumously, with Eddie tragically passing away not long after Holly. The two were tight, and after Holly’s death, it was rumored that it had a significant effect on Eddie, and in an ominous turn of events he became fearful of his own early departure. The two rock trailblazers were deeply in love when they both passed away, signifying they took the advice in the song. Out of all the musicians we’ve lost over the years, I’m sure those two definitely made it into rock and roll heaven.
2. C’Mon Everybody
This joyous little number was produced after another songwriting session with Jerry Capehart. A huge UK hit in 1959, the song took on an even more en vogue status when the popular jeans company Levi’s used ‘C’Mon Everybody’ for one of their commercials in the late ’80s. Their inclusion of his hit single in their marketing campaign highlights the timeless cool image Cochran conveyed even decades after his passing. A tune about going out for a night on the town with your one and only, the single captured the essence of the outgoing decade of the ’50s, which saw young people outwardly embracing adventure and celebration much more than previous generations.
1. Summertime Blues
Eddie’s biggest hit and one of his signature tracks, the legacy of ‘Summertime Blues’ is rivaled only by his other huge UK hit, ‘Three Steps to Heaven.’ The blockbuster single was the one that really put the rocker on the map. Recorded when he was only 19, he co-wrote it with Capehart, and his girlfriend Sharon can be heard in the track as well, providing the percussive hand claps. Capehart and Cochran wrote the tune in less than an hour. At the time, there were a ton of songs out there about the good times of summer. But, Eddie wanted to write a song focused on the trials a working man goes through during the dog days of the year. Despite the single’s upbeat instrumentation, lyrics delve into the darker parts of the calendar’s sunniest, hottest days. ‘Summertime Blues’ is one of those rock tunes that has become a standard of the genre. A long list of artist covers is associated with the enduring track. Perhaps no cover is as popular as country star Alan Jackson’s twangy version. That ’90s release went all the way to number 1 on the country charts.