It has been nearly three decades since Missouri native Sheryl Crow put out her first smash hit, “All I Wanna Do.” In the years since, she has become an American music icon. From getting her start as a back-up singer for Michael Jackson and a songwriter for the likes of Tina Turner and Celine Dion to winning nine Grammys, releasing eleven albums, and working with just about every big name the music industry has to offer, Crow’s thirty-odd years on stage have been full of achievement.
Crow is known for her pop-rock style of singer-songwriter music. It is feel-good and sunny but often cut with an edge that gives even her breeziest tunes a deep resonance. Traces of country, blues, jazz, and the myriad of genres that exemplify the diversity of American music can be heard throughout her discography.
Her long-time critical and commercial success has earned her the admiration of not only fans across the globe, but many of her peers, too. Along with her slew of successful solo releases, one of Crow’s most notable contributions to music is Threads, a 2019 collection of duets that features an all-star roster. Stevie Nicks, EmmyLou Harris, Mavis Staples, Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and Eric Clapton are just a few of the musical legends who sing with Crow on this record. Even Johnny Cash posthumously lent his talents to a re-recording of Crow’s 1996 tune, “Redemption Day,” which Cash had covered before his death.
Crow’s musical prolificity is mirrored in her humanitarian work. Between donating her own resources and calling upon her fans to give what they can to selected organizations, Crow has made a meaningful difference for an abundance of good causes. Along with contributing to major organizations such as the World Food Program, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and Feeding America, Crow is also involved with causes more personal to her. She often uses her music to raise both money and awareness on issues that hit close to home.
Five years after the Sandy Hook School shooting, Crow, mother of two sons, Wyatt and Levi, wrote “The Dreaming Kind” to honor the lives lost during the shooting, as well as to raise money for the Sandy Hook Promise, an organization that helps prevent gun violence in schools.
She also supports several breast cancer-related organizations, including the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. As a breast cancer survivor herself, she remains open about her own experience with breast cancer in an effort to advocate for early-detection. Furthermore, she opened an imaging center, Dr. Kristi Funk’s Pink Lotus Breast Center, to give women access to the same cutting-edge technology that helped save her life.
These are only a small fraction of the causes she supports. She has also been unapologetically political, voicing her opposition to the 2003 Iraq War, child detention centers along the US border, and the anti-abortion movement. Her influence, coupled with her resources and commitment to humanitarianism, has led to an array of generous charitable contributions matched by very few fellow artists.
It is hard to imagine an individual who has had such an enormous impact on the world, both culturally and philanthropically, as a small-town girl growing up in the rural Missouri bootheel. But for many years, that is exactly what she was. Born in Kennett, MO, a town of less than ten thousand, she lived there throughout her childhood. In high school, she ran track and was involved in the pep club and the National FFA Organization. She developed her interest in music at a young age. Her mother, a piano teacher, taught her to play and by thirteen, Crow was writing her own songs. When she left home to attend the University of Missouri in Columbia, she naturally studied musical education.
After graduating, she relocated to Fenton, MO to teach music at the elementary level. However, her inclination to dedicate herself completely to her craft eventually motivated her to quit teaching and leave Missouri for L.A. The rest, as we all know, is history.
Her music, with its far and wide reach, as well as the inspiration it has given so many fellow musicians, has helped shape the landscape of American music and storytelling. Furthermore, she has used her connections and resources to give back to the world, broaden the scope of her own creativity through collaboration, and ultimately stay true to the values typical of Missourians and the midwest at large: kindness, dedication, and an appreciation for beauty borne not from ostentation or glitz, but simplicity, generosity, and truth. In a time of such uncertainty and division, Crow’s music is a beacon of optimism and hope around which we can all gather.