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Monday, September 26, 2022

Sheryl Crow: The Sheryl Crow You Never Knew

Even though she acknowledged it with a kind wink, this was hardly a surprise (or a bluff). During the 1990s, when success was tied to behemoths like big labels and radio, and the most direct access to fans was via MTV and the frequently misogynistic press, Crow’s career started to take off. Even though she has given hundreds of interviews and been the subject of a plethora of other media attention, she stopped paying attention to the most of it about 1996, when she launched her second album.

According to nearly any standard, Crow is a rock ‘n’ roll giant. In all, she has 19 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 list, with four of them reaching the top ten; eight of her ten original studio albums have been in the top ten, and five of them have achieved platinum status. She has nine Grammys to her credit. It has a soulful aspect to it, and although she keeps her voice in a holster most of the time, Crow is quick to take it out when needed.

Crow, on the other hand, has always felt a little out of sync with the times: she recorded crisp, classic-sounding songs at a time when rock was growing grungy or approaching its “revival” in the 2000s. Rather than being mysterious, her demeanour has been described as “folksy.” After years of hard work, she has developed into an artist who has so fully woven herself into the tapestry of American music that she has become a permanent part of the pattern: In some ways, her omnipresence, longevity, and versatility across genres have resulted in her being underappreciated. However, Crow, at 60, has a devoted following of young female songwriters, demonstrating that she is a dynamic thread linking music’s past and future. It’s possible that the world, and perhaps Crow herself, need to be reminded of this from time to time.

Her willpower ultimately drew her out of the situation. In the end, Crow worked hard and wowed her way into the opportunity to record an album for A&M Records, but the polished outcome didn’t seem real, and the album was shelved. Ultimately, her debut came about by a more organic process: she’d been playing with (and dating) a musician named Kevin Gilbert, who introduced her to his friends’ hard-partying and high-minded jam sessions known as the Tuesday Night Music Club, where she made her debut. The get-togethers were transformed into a recording studio for her debut album, which was directed by one of the group’s members, Bill Bottrell.

Wyn Cooper’s Crow speak-singing poetry was included into their freestyle rendition of “All I Wanna Do.” One of the musicians was acquainted with a writer who wrote a novel with the same title as “Leaving Las Vegas,” John O’Brien, who was then a little-known author. Several of Crow’s partners were enraged by her off-handed answer to a query about whether the song was autobiographical when the song gained popularity and she sang it on David Letterman’s programme. They said she was claiming too much credit for the song. O’Brien committed suicide a few weeks later.

Early descriptions of Crow were preoccupied with her drive and professionalism, with the loaded epithet “driven” being the favoured choice. As soon as she realised she’d made it, she turned her attention to her family – specifically, when she was going to have one. It was Crow herself who leaned into this storyline, stressing in her 2002 “Behind the Music” episode that she wanted to make room for her husband and children in her life.

Her third relationship, with professional cyclist Lance Armstrong, came to an end in 2006 as a result of his doping scandal. She was diagnosed with breast cancer very shortly after the couple separated, which was a shock. Fame has become a poison. “There were photographers shooting into the home, and it was at that point that I completely lost trust in humanity,” she said. It seemed like everything was put back into perspective after that, and it was like, OK, everything’s back in perspective now. And that was the first time I had the feeling of being an adult. It is possible to be a rock star and never grow up.”

In an episode of the podcast Bandsplain earlier this year, Bethany Cosentino, the singer-guitarist for Best Coast, examined her idol’s music over a four-and-a-half-hour period of time. ‘She has so many songs that are these enormous successes that, at least for someone my age, you can’t have grown up and not heard those songs,’ says Sophie Allison, a 24-year-old artist who goes by the stage name Soccer Mommy.

A key lesson that Scott, the documentary’s director, wants audiences take away from Crow’s perseverance in the face of obstacles and discrimination is her capacity to persevere in the face of adversity and sexism. According to the actress in a video interview, “she simply never gave up.” “At every step, she advanced in skill and strength, and she fought back and maintained control.” Crow’s eyes welled up with tears as he recalled those dramatic moments of rupture and rebound. “When I look at myself in the mirror, I see myself completely differently,” she remarked. In contrast to what I saw myself to be at the time, which was an artist and a woman in charge of a firm, I now view myself as an individual.

Crow had said in a 1998 interview, which she is unlikely to have read, that rock was a kind of resistance for young people, a typical Us vs. Them scenario. Laughing, she said, possibly realising the lesson of her life: being somewhat out of sync with your own time has the advantage of making you seem timeless.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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