Leon Russell wrote this song. The “Delta Lady” is Rita Coolidge, who was born in Tennessee and moved to Memphis in 1967, where she met Russell. They started dating, and in 1969 Russell wrote this song about her. He was working on Joe Cocker’s second album at the time, so he contributed this song, which Cocker released as the first single from the set. Russell included the song on his first solo album the following year.
The song peaked at #69 in the Billboard 100 in 1969. The song was off the album Joe Cocker! that peaked at #11 in 1970. Leon and Rita Coolidge would tour with Cocker and appear on the live Mad Dogs and Englishmen album…Cocker’s highest-charting LP.
It’s always been one of my favorites from Joe…I still can’t help but think of John Belushi when Joe Cocker’s name comes up.
This song’s muse Rita Coolidge is one of the backing vocalists on the track. In her autobiography, she recalls Cocker recording the song at Russell’s studio on Skyhill Drive in Los Angeles, where she served tea to the musicians and crew. She didn’t know at the time that the song would become her calling card: she named that autobiography Delta Lady.
The song is very sensual, with Cocker singing about finding the Delta Lady “wet and naked in the garden,” and how he thinks about those times when he’s away from her and longs for her touch. No matter where he goes, he thinks of her.
Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge joined Joe Cocker on his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, where she would sing “Superstar,” a song written by Russell and Bonnie Bramlett. “Here she is, our own Delta Lady,” Cocker would announce when introducing her, imprinting that appellation.
Russell wrote another song about Rita Coolidge, “A Song For You,” which also appeared on his debut album. The couple split soon after, just as their careers started taking off. Coolidge issued her first album in 1971 and had her first big hit in 1977 with a cover of Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher.”
Woman of the country now I’ve found you
Longing in your soft and fertile delta
And I whisper sighs to satisfy your longing
For the warmth and tender shelter of my body
Oh you’re my, yes you’re my Delta Lady
Yes, you’re my, me oh my, Delta Lady
Please don’t ask how many times I found you
Standing wet and naked in the garden
And I think of days and different ways I held you
Held you closely to me, yes our heart was beating
Oh you’re my
Oh, and I’m over here in England
But I think of you, think about you
Because I love you
There are concrete mountains in the city
And pretty city women live inside them
And yet it seems the city scene is lacking
I’m so glad you’re waiting for me in the country
Oh you’re my