"I draw from my family and my friends and I feel like that small-town person. The achievements, the materialistic possessions have really become to mean less. They mean nothing." - Sheryl CrowSheryl Crow is an American singer-songwriter and musician. Her music blends rock, country, pop and folk, into one mainstream sound, and she has won nine Grammy Awards. Crow is also a political activist. She has performed with the Rolling Stones and has sung duets with Mick Jagger, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and Kid Rock, among others. Crow's recordings have appeared on the soundtracks to Cars, Erin Brockovich and Tomorrow Never Dies, among many others.
Sheryl Suzanne Crow was born in Kennett, Missouri, a small town in the southeast corner of the state. Although her father was a practicing attorney, both he and her mother were enthusiastic musicians who played in a swing band on weekends. Her mother also taught piano and insisted that Sheryl and her siblings study piano from an early age. 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. "We had four pianos in the house, and we all practiced at once," Crow tells PEOPLE of her childhood in the farming town of Kennett, Mo. "Mom stood in the kitchen cooking and monitored us, but I still don't know how she could hear." While studying at Kennett High School, Crow was a majorette and an All-State track athlete, medaling in the 75-meter low hurdles. Sheryl was drawn to a musical career. While she earned a music degree, studying classical piano at the University of Missouri, Columbia, she played keyboards with a local cover band and was already planning a career as a professional songwriter. After graduation, Sheryl Crow settled in St. Louis, where she taught music to autistic children, and sang with a local band. Later, she was introduced to local musician and producer Jay Oliver. He had a thriving studio in the basement of his parents' home, in St. Louis, and helped her by using her in advertising jingles. Her first jingle was a back-to-school spot for the St. Louis department store Famous-Barr. McDonald's and Toyota commercial jingles soon followed. Sheryl Crow was quoted in a 60 Minutes segment as saying she made $40,000 on her McDonald's commercial alone.
Sheryl Crow's first break came when she was hired as one of Michael Jackson's back-up singers for a world tour supporting his album Bad. She received extra attention when she was featured in an onstage duet with Jackson, then at the height of his popularity. Touring the world with the era's biggest star was a heady experience for the girl from Kennett, but the two years' experience with the King of Pop gave her the credibility to pursue a recording contract of her own. 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, Sheryl Crow continued to write songs, some of which were recorded by the likes of Celine Dion, Wynonna Judd, and Eric Clapton. 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. At the 1995 Grammy Awards, Sheryl Crow received one trophy as Best New Artist and another for Best Female Rock Vocal for "All I Wanna Do." The song itself was named Record of the Year. Now the whole country was paying attention. Tuesday Night Music Club sold more than 7 million copies, and Sheryl Crow and her band were playing all over the country.
In 1995, Sheryl and Bottrell began work on her second album, but bad feelings were strangling the project. Bottrell abandoned the project, leaving Sheryl to produce the album herself. Sheryl Crow's self-titled second album is a mix of folk, pop and rock wins over the masses and critics, but not retailer Wal-Mart. The chain refuses to sell Crow's album because the track "Love Is a Good Thing" features the lyrics: "Watch our children while they kill each other/With a gun they bought at Wal-Mart discount stores." It peaks at No. 6 on the Billboard albums chart and scores two Grammys for Best Rock Album and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for the hit "If It Makes You Happy." 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. Crow 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 Crow's 2002 record, C'mon, C'mon, was another platinum smash, and the hit single "Soak Up the Sun," like several of her hits before it, became a fixture on rock radio. By this time Crow's every move, from her hairstyles to her fashions to her personal life, was subject to intense scrutiny by the news media. She used her celebrity to draw attention to causes she believed in, supporting the Senate candidacy of Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan, and speaking out against U.S. military involvement in Iraq. Early in 2006, shortly after the end of a highly-publicized engagement to champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, Sheryl Crow was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer was detected early, and after minimally invasive surgery and a short, precautionary round of radiation therapy, she appeared to have recovered completely. By the following spring, she had resumed public performing and was on tour supporting her album. Sheryl Crow's newest CD Detours is filled with songs about having and holding, changing and letting go, about beginnings, endings, and the roads between them. Detours was inspired by "how I feel things are going in the world and what's happened to me the last couple of years," says the nine-time Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter. Sheryl Crow's lyrical signposts range from the demise of a relationship, the adoption of a child (baby Wyatt, who guests on "Lullaby For Wyatt"), a public bout with breast cancer to the war in Iraq.