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Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow

With a personalized spin on classic roots rock and songwriting that's smart, fun, and often more complex than it first lets on, Sheryl Crow has become one of the more lasting and influential presences in mainstream rock music. Both her 1993 debut Tuesday Night Music Club and self-titled 1996 follow-up were not just massive commercial successes but included signature hits like "If It Makes You Happy" and "Every Day Is a Winding Road," which established Crow as a dependable star with a knack for creating consistently high-quality material with an organic flair. Crow's platinum success carried into the 2000s and she continued to evolve musically, embracing vintage soul and R&B on 2010's 100 Miles from Memphis and country music on 2013's Feels Like Home. Throughout her career, Crow has collaborated with a wide array of high-profile musicians, a trait that culminated with Threads, a star-studded 2019 album she initially intended as a farewell. After her induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2023, Crow returned with Evolution, a 2024 album that played into the tuneful strengths of such '90s hits like "All I Wanna Do."

Sheryl Suzanne Crow was born February 11, 1962, in Kennett, Missouri. Her parents had both performed in swing orchestras, her father on trumpet and her mother as a singer; her mother was also a piano teacher, and ensured that all her daughters learned the instrument starting in grade school. Crow wrote her first song at age 13, and majored in music at the University of Missouri, where she also played keyboards in a cover band called Cashmere. After graduating, she spent a couple of years in St. Louis working as a music teacher for autistic children. She sang with another cover band, P.M., by night and recorded local advertising jingles on the side. In 1986, Crow packed up and moved to Los Angeles to try her luck in the music business. She was able to land some more jingle-singing assignments, and got her first big break when she successfully auditioned to be a backup singer on Michael Jackson's international Bad tour. In concert, she often sang the female duet part on "I Just Can't Stop Loving You." After spending two years on the road with Jackson, Crow resumed her search for a record deal, but found that record companies were only interested in making her a dance-pop singer, which was not at all to her taste.

Frustrated, Crow suffered a bout of severe depression that lasted about six months. She revived her career as a session vocalist, however, and performed with the likes of Sting, Rod Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Foreigner, Joe Cocker, Sinéad O'Connor, and Don Henley, the latter of whom she toured with behind The End of the Innocence. She also developed her songwriting skills enough to have her compositions recorded by the likes of Wynonna Judd, Céline Dion, and Eric Clapton. Thanks to her session work, she made a connection with producer Hugh Padgham, who got her signed to A&M. Padgham and Crow went into the studio in 1991 to record her debut album, but Padgham's pop leanings resulted in a slick, ballad-laden record that didn't reflect the sound Crow wanted. The album was shelved, and fearing that she'd let her best opportunity slip through her fingers, Crow sank into another near-crippling depression that lingered for nearly a year-and-a-half. However, thanks to boyfriend Kevin Gilbert, an engineer who'd attempted to remix her ill-fated album, Crow fell in with a loose group of industry pros that included Gilbert, Bill Bottrell, David Baerwald, David Ricketts, Brian MacLeod, and Dan Schwartz. Dubbed the Tuesday Night Music Club, this collective met once a week at Bottrell's Pasadena recording studio to drink, jam, and work out material. In this informal, collaborative setting, Crow was able to get her creative juices flowing again, and the group agreed to make its newest member -- the only one with a recording contract -- the focal point.

Crow and the collective worked out enough material for an album, and with Bottrell serving as producer, she recorded her new official debut, titled Tuesday Night Music Club in tribute. The record was released in August 1993 and proved slow to take off. Lead single "Run Baby Run" made little impact, and while "Leaving Las Vegas" attracted some attention, it reached only the lower half of the charts. A&M took one last shot by releasing "All I Wanna Do," a song partly written by poet Wyn Cooper, as a single. With its breezy, carefree outlook, "All I Wanna Do" became one of the biggest summer singles of 1994, falling just one position short of number one. Suddenly, Tuesday Night Music Club started flying out of stores, and spawned a Top Five follow-up hit in "Strong Enough" (plus another minor single in "Can't Cry Anymore"). Crow was a big winner at the Grammys in early 1995, taking home honors for Best New Artist, Best Female Rock Vocal, and Record of the Year (the latter two for "All I Wanna Do"). Her surprising sweep pushed Tuesday Night Music Club into the realm of a genuine blockbuster: After close to a decade of dues paying, Crow was a star.

Having made her first album as part of a large collective of songwriters, Crow set out to prove her legitimacy with her second album. Bill Bottrell was originally slated to produce the record, but fell out with Crow very early on, and the singer ended up taking over production duties herself. However, she did bring in the noted team of Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake as assistant producer and engineer, respectively. Froom and Blake were known for the strange sonic experimentation they brought to projects by roots rockers (the Latin Playboys) and singer/songwriters (Richard Thompson, Suzanne Vega), and they helped Crow craft a similarly non-traditional record. Released in the fall of 1996, Sheryl Crow definitely bore the stamp of the singer's personality and songwriting voice, especially in the idiosyncratic lyrics; plus, she was now doing most of the writing, usually with her guitarist, Jeff Trott, proving that she could cut it without her previous collaborators. The singles "If It Makes You Happy," "Everyday Is a Winding Road," and "A Change Would Do You Good" were all radio smashes, and "Home" also became a minor hit. Sheryl Crow went triple platinum, and Crow brought home Grammys for Best Rock Album and another Best Female Rock Vocal (for "If It Makes You Happy").

Crow toured with the Lilith Fair package during the summer of 1997 (the first of several tours), and subsequently wrote and performed the title theme to the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. In the fall of 1998, she returned with her third album, The Globe Sessions. A more straightforward, traditionalist rock record than Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions didn't dominate the airwaves in quite the same fashion, but it did become her third straight platinum-selling, Top Ten LP, and it won her another Grammy for Best Rock Album. It also spawned two mid-sized hits in the Top 20: "My Favorite Mistake" and "Anything But Down." In 1999, she contributed a Grammy-winning cover of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" to the soundtrack of the Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy. She also performed a special free concert in New York's Central Park, with an array of guest stars including Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Chrissie Hynde, the Dixie Chicks, Stevie Nicks, and Sarah McLachlan. The show was broadcast on Fox and later released as the album Live in Central Park, just in time for the holidays. "There Goes the Neighborhood" won her another Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocal.

Hit with a case of writer's block, Crow took some time to deliver her fourth studio LP. In the meantime, she produced several tracks on Stevie Nicks' 2001 album, Trouble in Shangri-La, and also recorded a duet with Kid Rock, "Picture," for his album Cocky. Finally, in the spring of 2002, Crow released C'mon C'mon, which entered the LP charts at number two for her highest positioning yet. It quickly went platinum, and the lead single, "Soak Up the Sun," was a Top 20 hit and another ubiquitous radio smash. The follow-up, "Steve McQueen," was also a lesser hit. At the beginning of 2005 it was announced that there would be two simultaneously released new albums available by the end of the year. The project was then scaled back to the single-disc Wildflower, which saw release at the end of September. Crow was forced to take time off from her musical career in 2006 after being diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. After successful treatment, she returned in 2008 with her sixth studio album, Detours. The soul-inspired 100 Miles from Memphis followed in 2010 and featured guest spots from Keith Richards, Justin Timberlake, and Citizen Cope. By the end of that year, she had performed with Loretta Lynn and Miranda Lambert on the title track of a Lynn tribute album, Coal Miner's Daughter. This country-focused collaboration was an early indicator of the direction that Crow's work would eventually take in the years that followed.

A creatively quiet 2011 ended with her appearance on William Shatner's space-themed third studio album, Seeking Major Tom. Crow's delicate, piano-fueled cover of K.I.A.'s "Mrs. Major Tom" was generally received by critics as one of the highlights of the disc. Then, in summer 2012, she revealed details of another health scare. Although Crow had been diagnosed with a brain tumor at the end of 2011, it was found to be benign, and six months on she was quoted in many news reports as feeling healthy and happy. That November she issued the download-only, politically charged "Woman in the White House." It was her first self-penned material to appear in a couple of years and was her most out-and-out mainstream country track to date. March 2013 saw the release of "Easy," the first single to appear ahead of Feels Like Home, a country-steeped full-length that appeared in September of 2013. Feels Like Home debuted at seven on the Billboard Top 200 -- and number three on the country chart -- but generated no country hits, so Crow changed direction for 2017's Be Myself by reuniting with her '90s collaborators Tchad Blake and Jeff Trott. The politically charged 2018 single "Wouldn't Want to Be Like You" saw Crow pairing up with St. Vincent's Annie Clark. That track later landed on her star-studded duets album, Threads, which recruited a wide array of guest artists including Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, Chuck D, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Willie Nelson. Crow released Threads in September 2019, citing that while it would be her last full-length studio album she intended to continue performing and recording occasional new music. She was later the subject of the subject of director Amy Scott's feature documentary film Sheryl, which was released in May 2022. A hit-packed double album, Sheryl: Music from the Feature Documentary, accompanied the film and featured three new songs including the single "Forever."

Sheryl helped lay the groundwork for Crow's 2023 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Shortly after earning that honor, Crow released Evolution, a 2024 album co-produced by Mike Elizondo and John Shanks that spliced the sunniness of C'mon C'mon with the lanky roots-rock of Tuesday Night Music Club. ~ Steve Huey

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