The music industry is a funny beast. One day nobody’s ever heard of you and you don’t know whether or not to give up your day job. The next day you have a hot album or single and suddenly you’re everywhere. Thus, Sheryl Crow.
Sheryl Crow is from Missouri, a state that by turns could be considered both Southern and Midwestern. Her parents weren’t professional musicians but did play instruments. Like Chris Isaak who I mentioned in my previous post, she was popular in high school and joined all the right groups.
After college, she worked (appropriately enough) as a music teacher, singing and playing music on nights and weekends. Through a contact, she started singing jingles for commercials. I recall reading that she said she made more money from one advert than in her entire year of teaching music to kids. Thus, the handwriting was on the wall for her teaching vs. playing decision.
She moved to LA and while on a backup date for Johnny Mathis (!), she heard some singers talking about an open audition for Michael Jackson. She got the gig and was one his backup singers on his late ’80’s Bad tour. She routinely did a duet with him and if you think of Sheryl as some latter-day hippie chick, you gotta see this. She goes full-on glam! Check it out here: (1:24)
After that tour, there was some industry interest in her and whether she’d go on to record a Paula Abdul-like dance record. But that wasn’t really her thing as, despite the MJ sojourn, she was much more influenced by the rock and blues of her generation. (I remember once watching a clearly intimidated Crow doing “Midnight Rider” with the Allmans.)
Crow struck out on her own, recording a debut album that she didn’t care for. (“It’s a giant snore,” she says. “You can get it for a hundred bucks on eBay.”)* But by then she had also started writing songs, some of which were covered by Celine Dion and Tina Turner.
Through her then-boyfriend, she joined in an ad hoc group of musicians calling themselves the Tuesday Music Club. After Crow’s arrival, the group began to shift increasingly towards a focus on Sheryl and her songs.
It’s pretty clear on listening to this album that while she could and would sing Michael Jackson-type songs, they were by no means her favored style. This album is rock and pop and in its own way soulful. (It would have been fun if MJ had sung backup on one of the tunes.) She said that she and other female performers of the era (Lauryn Hill, Alanis Morissette) were the “stepchildren of Stevie Nicks and Chrissie Hynde.”
Released in August of 1993, right around the time the so-called grunge dudes were popular (“everybody in bands looked like a roadie,” Crow says), the single “All I Wanna Do” was a smash. It’s actually based on a poem called “Fun” by a writer named Wyn Cooper. Not just based on it but in some cases, used word-for-word. Crow and company came up with the music and chorus, Cooper got full credit for lyrics and made some good money.
Anyway, here’s “All I Wanna Do.” It’s catchy as hell and it’s … fun! Hit it.
That song won the then (old for pop) thirty-year old Crow the 1995 Grammy Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. It was nominated for Song of the Year but lost to some dude named Springsteen for “Streets of Philadelphia.”
Next tune is “Leaving Las Vegas,” which shares a title with the book and movie of the same name. There was some controversy around this tune as to whether or not some of the writers knew the author of the book or whether – as Crow claimed – it was autobiographical.** Either way, it’s a good slinky tune.
Used to be I could drive up to Barstow for the night
Find some cross-road trucker
Demonstrate his might
But these days it seems
Nowhere is far enough away
So I’m leaving Las Vegas today
Last tune I’ll feature is “Strong Enough,” which is the third song on the album. A nice acoustic number whose gentle sound belies its tough interior. Beyonce covered this and Travis Tritt did an answer song called, what else, “Strong Enough To Be Your Man.”
I saw Sheryl open for the Stones on their Steel Wheels tour a few years after this album came out. Good performer. I’m pretty sure she did a song with the boys, either “Honky Tonk Women” or “Live With Me.”
Tuesday Night Music Club is listed as one of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and also ranked at number 94 on the list for the 150 greatest female albums of all time by National Public Radio.
*OR, just listen to it on YouTube.
**Famously, much acrimony came about in the Tuesday Club as the result of the success of this album. The rest of the guys felt that Crow claimed too much credit for the songs and that they were written more collaboratively than she was letting on. It looks like they made their case successfully as a casual look at the writers’ credits shows no tune singularly credited to Crow. But then again, Crow has gone on to a very successful career. Those guys?
According to Crow, she had asked all of the players to go on the road but they had other gigs. (Nobody expected a smash record.) By the time she had a new band together, they had changed their tune and wanted to be part of her touring band.
But according to Crow, she felt loyal to her new bandmates and in her telling, the resentment was as much this as anything else. But those dudes say she got what she wanted and dumped them. Maybe the truth is somewhere in between.
Sources: Wikipedia, Sheryl Crow interview