Wednesday, March 15, 2023

It Can't Be That Bad: Sheryl Crow

 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Balloting, Part I 

The Dossier
 Sheryl Crow started her professional career as a massively bewigged background singer on Michael Jackson’s Bad tour before launching her solo career with 1994’s Tuesday Night Music Club, which contained the hits “Leaving Las Vegas,” “All I Wanna Do,” and “Strong Enough.” She’d go on to have six more Top 20 hits, not counting the egregious “Picture” with Kid Rock, on which she was listed as a guest artist. She has won nine Grammys, including the dreaded Best New Artist in 1995, has released six Top Ten albums, and sold 50 million albums all told.

Why I Should Vote for Her The late 1990s were in some ways a fertile time for an  alternative-leaning female singer-songwriter to launch a mainstream rock career - Lilith Fair ran in 1998 and 1999 -  but Sheryl Crow and her rootsier sound were a bit out of step. Nevertheless, she was probably the most enduring of that generation of women singer-songwriters. 

Those early songs hold up pretty well, too - I still hear “Soak Up the Sun” and “If It Makes You Happy” all the time. They had a distinctive vibe, kind of a Stones-in-L.A.-in-the-Nineties thing. “All I Wanna Do” is probably the best of them, a ridiculously specific tour through a Hollywood bar in mid-morning with a collection of losers. She wrote (or at least co-wrote) all the familiar hits, too. Billboard named her the 5th Greatest Alternative Artist of all time, which, whatever, but it’s hard to argue with it.

Back in 2003, when she had just turned 40, Sheryl Crow posed for the cover of Stuff magazine in a pair of short shorts, with her heinie turned to the camera.  I had the privilege of working as an editor at Rolling Stone at that point, and in our year-end issue,

we ran a blip on how Sheryl’s year had gone, and I inserted a reference to “that embarrassing Stuff cover.” But I was just feeling competitive, and there was nothing wrong with that Stuff cover – she looked great! I’ve always regretted that comment, and this would be my chance to make it up to Sheryl. But hey, I’m still better than Lance Armstrong, right?

Bob Dylan originally cut “Mississippi” for Time Out of Mind, and when he didn’t like the results, he offered the song to Crow, who put it on her album The Globe Sessions. She said that Bob ended up being a mentor for her. If Bob’s that much of a fan of hers, who am I to argue?

Why I Shouldn’t Vote for Her The career was not especially long, lasting about a decade as a hitmaker, and there were only three Top Ten hits (again, not counting “Picture”). I’m also not getting the feeling that she had a whole lot of lasting artistic significance; are there any female singers or songwriters who claim to have been influenced by Sheryl Crow? I know the Dixie Chicks covered her cover of “Mississippi,” so if that influence exists, it’s probably with country singers that I’m not especially familiar with.

The Verdict I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Sheryl Crow get inducted – in fact, I expect her to – but given that it’s her first year on the ballot and the ballot is stacked this year, I’m going to reluctantly pass.



  1. From a Rolling Stone piece I wrote on Maren Morris seven years ago: "Last year, she released a five-song EP, and radio play for 'My Church' helped fuel more than 2 million streams before she landed a deal with Sony Music Nashville. The pop hooks on 'Hero' recall Morris fave Sheryl Crow, and like her friends Kacey Musgraves and the Brothers Osborne, she’s part of a new wave of Nashville musicians making their moves by doing things their own way. 'To turn the radio on and hear so much more diversity, it’s so refreshing,' she says. 'That voice that cuts through what you’ve been hearing, it’s inspiring.'"

  2. I agree. You're comment that "I’m also not getting the feeling that she had a whole lot of lasting artistic significance" plays right into the hall's criteria for induction. There are always differences between artists we enjoy listening to and those who will make a lasting impression on other musicians and music lovers. She falls into the enjoyable category.