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Sheryl Crow Biography

Last updated: 08/24/2013 07:46:47 AM

Sheryl Crow-photo
Sheryl Crow was born on February 11, 1962 in Kennett, Missouri to a family immersed in music. Her father Wendell Crow played trumpet in swing bands before becoming a lawyer, and her mother Bernice taught piano. Sheryl began piano lessons at age 5, and growing up on the music of artists such as Christine McVie, Elton John, and Bob Dylan, she composed her first song at age 13. She went on to major in music at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and while there, she became part of a rock cover band named Cashmere. After graduating, Sheryl taught music to autistic children for two years at a St. Louis elementary school, and has since been an advocate of Save the Music, a program that supports the teaching of music in schools.

Sheryl's career as a professional singer/songwriter has its roots in hard work and perseverance. She began by moving to Los Angeles in 1986, where she worked as a waitress and searched for music gigs in her free time. Eventually, she managed to get work singing for several commercial spots, including a McDonald's jingle. Around this time, she auditioned as a backup singer for Michael Jackson, and impressed his camp enough to be accepted onto the two year Bad world tour.

Following the end of Jackson's tour in 1989, Sheryl suffered a six month bout with depression. Her music career managed to survive through this tumultuous time, and she got more work doing backup vocals for Sting, Foreigner, Stevie Wonder, and Rod Stewart, as well as for Don Henley on the End of the Innocence tour. Meanwhile, she continued to write songs, some of which were recorded by the likes of Celine Dion, Wynonna Judd, and Eric Clapton.

Around this time, producer Hugh Padgham was impressed with Sheryl enough to present her demo to the now-defunct A&M Records. She was quickly signed to the label. Padgham squeezed a largely commercial record from her--one that did not do justice to her true talents--but A&M chose not to release it. Sheryl's boyfriend at the time, Kevin Gilbert, attempted to remix the album in 1991, but it never came to light. He eventually presented the demos to Bill Bottrell, an engineer and producer with a studio in Pasadena. Gilbert, Bottrell, singer/songwriter David Baerwald, and a few other musicians soon began holding jam sessions at local clubs on Tuesday night, and when Sheryl was invited to join in, the infamous Tuesday Night Music Club was born.

During these sessions, the band developed several songs that made it onto Sheryl's debut album, including the breakthrough hit Leaving Las Vegas. The title of the song was borrowed from a novel by John O'Brien, who was friends with Baerwald. The novel later became the framework for the movie of the same title starring Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue.

Sheryl's debut album Tuesday Night Music Club was released in the fall of 1993. In early 1994, it began climbing the charts, fueled by the success of the single "Leaving Las Vegas." In March 1994, Sheryl performed the song on The Late Show with David Letterman. When asked if the song was autobiographical, she offhandedly said that it was. Her bandmates took the comment as a dismissal of their contributions, and animosity formed between them. Baerwald refused to forgive Sheryl for the comment. Although not a direct cause, the scenario marked the beginning of a tragic era in Sheryl's personal life. Her band would eventually part ways. O'Brien shot himself shortly after the Late Show performance, and in May 1996, Gilbert would be found dead of autoerotic asphyxiation.

Perhaps caught up in the mania that surrounded the infectious pop-single All I Wanna Do, the work on Tuesday Night Music Club earned Sheryl a slew of awards. At the 37th Annual Grammy Awards in 1995, "All I Wanna Do" won Record of the Year, the first time the award had been scooped up by a newcomer in years. Sheryl also won Best Female Pop Vocal for the song, as well as Best New Artist. The album has sold over 6 million copies. Singer Liz Phair cited it as one of her favorite albums of the year, and Entertainment Weekly named Sheryl Rookie of the Year. She toured behind the album feverishly, signing onto the H.O.R.D.E. festival tour and Woodstock '94. She also performed at the opening of the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, a gig she shared with the Eagles.

In 1995, Sheryl and Bottrell began work on her second album, but bad feelings were strangling the project. Eager for an escape, the two relocated to New Orleans. But the problems were not left behind in Los Angeles. Almost immediately, the two split up. Bottrell abandoned the project, leaving Sheryl to produce the album herself.

In the fall of 1996, Sheryl's self-titled second album was released, and immediately spawned the hit single If It Makes You Happy. The album, almost exclusively the work of Sheryl alone, was met with critical success and put to rest the debate over her personal music skills. The sophomore effort was also the focus of controversy because of a lyric in the song Love Is A Good Thing. The lines "Watch out sister/Watch out brother/Watch our children as they kill each other/With a gun they bought at Wal-Mart Discount Store" caused the nation's largest retailer to pull the album from their shelves. Although the move cost Sheryl an estimated 500,000 units of sales, A&M Records stood behind her decision to leave the lyric unchanged. Sheryl has said that the song is an observation of America's problems and not a direct attack on Wal-Mart. For the record, however, guns are indeed a part of the chain's inventory.

Sheryl's second album garnered its fair share of awards, although with less fanfare than her debut album. At the 39th Annual Grammy Awards in 1997, Sheryl took home Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for "If It Makes You Happy" and Best Rock Album. Later that year, she released the title track for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies starring Pierce Brosnan. It would later be nominated for another Grammy for Best Song from a Motion Picture.

In 1998, Sheryl's third album, The Globe Sessions, was released. Spawning the moody first single My Favorite Mistake, the album won the approval of fans and critics alike. It was nominated for Best Album and Best Rock Album in 1999 for the 41st Annual Grammy Awards, and Sheryl was nominated for Best Producer of the Year, Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for There Goes the Neighborhood, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "My Favorite Mistake." When all was said and done, she took home the Grammy for Best Rock Album of the year.

In 1999, the album Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live in Central Park was released for the holiday season. The album features Sheryl performing duets with artists including The Dixie Chicks, Stevie Nicks, Eric Clapton, Lilith Fair collaborator Sarah McLachlan, and more.

Sheryl's work has also appeared on many motion picture soundtracks, including Hope Floats, Boys on the Side, Message in a Bottle, The Faculty, and Practical Magic, on which she performs with Stevie Nicks. She has also contributed to the Led Zeppelin and Carpenters tribute albums.


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