Sheryl Crow on Her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction: ‘I’m Shocked — Life Is Crazy!’
When the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum opened up in Cleveland in 1995 with a massive stadium concert featuring Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless other rock veterans, Sheryl Crow was one of the youngest artists on the bill. “It’s been an interesting journey for me since I played at that show,” Crow tells Rolling Stone. “My whole life has revolved around Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artists. It’s crazy to be inducted on my own.”
She’s talking to us just hours after it was announced that she was entering the Hall of Fame alongside George Michael, Missy Elliott, Rage Against The Machine, Willie Nelson, the Spinners, Kate Bush, Chaka Khan, DJ Kool Herc, Al Kooper, Bernie Taupin, and Don Cornelius. It is the culmination of a lifelong dream, and she was still quite overwhelmed with emotion.
Congratulations on the big news.
Thank you! I’ll be honest with you. I’m shocked.
I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve been doing this that long. It’s gone so fast. But also, I don’t know. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t see myself getting in the first year. It’s such an honor. I’m just super excited.
How did you find out? Who told you?
My manager called me. He told me the day before they announced it. He said, “You can’t tell anyone.” I got a text from my family on the group thread saying, “It’s the last day to vote! Make sure everybody votes!” I couldn’t tell them. I don’t know how much time they spent voting. But it’s really cool. And for me, it’s just icing on the cake to be in the same class as Willie Nelson. He’s such a dear friend, and a huge inspiration.
It’s such crazy timing since he turned 90 last week, and had those huge concerts at the Hollywood Bowl you played at with him.
Life is crazy! I could not have predicted it if I tried, especially in the early days of my career, coming from a town with three stoplights. Having grown up listening to Willie on my radio station, I just couldn’t have predicted it. There’s no way. Man, I’ll tell you what…it just testimony to the fact that you never know what can happen with a little hard work, taking some chances…You just never know.
You’re in a really cool class this year with Kate Bush, Rage Against The Machine, Chaka Khan, George Michael, the Spinners…I imagine you’re fans of all of them.
I’m fans of every one of them. To be honest, It’s kind of funny with Kate. Right after college, the Peter Gabriel song [“Don’t Give Up”] came out that she was on. I dug deep into her work, and now she’s having a resurgence thanks to Stranger Things. It’s really cool. There’s so many little threads to all of these people, for me, and my fans as well.
Every class is awesome. But it’s going to be a really fun night. I’m going to look forward to it. There’s some people I won’t see there, like George Michael. But I did know him. It’s cool to see him get his due as well. It’s going to be really cool.
The term “rock and roll” is so loose that, at least in my mind, it does encompass both Missy Elliott and Willie Nelson.
Yeah. I think one of the nice things about it is that it’s really based on influence, how much influence you’ve had on the artists that came after you. Oh my goodness…I grew up singing the Spinners. I know most of the songs they ever recorded. For Missy Elliott…not just female, but how many young rappers did she bring in? I can’t underestimate…I try not to get excited for these things. I think of a thousand reasons why it might not happen, so this is mind-blowing. You do think about how many people you hopefully influenced to pick up a guitar and write their hearts.
They’re placing you in the same club as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly…That must be crazy to think about.
It’s crazy! That’s one of the things I told my manager. I’m embarrassed to be mentioned in same breath as people that wrote the book, not just on rock and roll, but music in general. It’s incredible to be even in the same sentence with those people. They are people I’ve stood on the shoulders of.
Can you imagine a big all-star jam of you, Rage Against The Machine, Missy Elliott, Willie Nelson, and Chaka Khan?
Oh my God. First and foremost, Willie Nelson is my favorite person to sing with in the universe. But if I get to stand and sing with Chaka Khan, I’m afraid I will lose my shit. [Laughs] She’s one of the greatest singers of all time and just a badass. And where else can you do that besides the Rock Hall?
You’ve been to many of the past induction ceremonies. What are your best memories from those nights?
I’ve gotten to be in the room when it wasn’t televised and gotten to see things you wouldn’t necessarily see. I also got to induct Fleetwood Mac [in 1998], and I got to induct Pat Benatar last year. As a kid, for me, she was a huge inspiration. I’ve got a lot of amazing memories from being in the room.
Now it’s your turn at the podium.
Oh my God. I can’t even think about it. If I took the time to thank everyone who is responsible for me being here, we would be there for three weeks. And we might be.
That’s a tough speech to write. They only give you about five minutes at the most. How do you cram everything into that?
I don’t know. It will be difficult. I have people that I’ve been tethered to, one way or another, for 35 years. I will talk fast. I’ll be like one of those advertisements that speed up at the end. That’s going to be me. [Laughs].
I love how they bring in unsung heroes. This year, it’s Al Kooper and Bernie Taupin. They’re pivotal people that really deserve this.
Absolutely. I’m always shocked every year when people are inducted you assume would have been inducted like 30 years ago. Al Kooper is definitely one of them. And Bernie Taupin. I mean, it’s unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it when I read his name. How cool is that? I can definitely say, without hesitation, that if it wasn’t for Bernie Taupin, I would not be writing songs. One of the first songs I learned how to play was “Your Song.” When you’re a kid, you don’t realize that the words are pulling you in as much as the music. He’s definitely, for me, been a massive inspiration.
Don Cornelius too.
Oh my God! Can we just talk about Don Cornelius? I’m such a dinosaur. Those music programs…there was no YouTube. That’s what you watched. You couldn’t wait. I grew up on that stuff. I’m so happy that he’s in.
Kate Bush is obviously pretty shy and doesn’t attend a lot of major events like this. But for the fans, and you, I’m sure, it would be such a thrill if she comes and possibly even sings a song or two.
I would love that. Like I said, when I was a kid, there wasn’t really an avenue to see people who didn’t tour that much, who didn’t do that much TV. She was one of them. When I got turned on to her after MTV and that stuff and discovered what she was doing, it was so unique. It’s what you can call a “music performance.” It wasn’t just the music. It was her interpreting music with her body and her stage presence. Talk about unique.
I love that Stranger Things brought her to the forefront with all these young kids. That kind of music transcends time. It’s very emotional and very inspiring. I think she’s been up several times, so I’m really happy. I hope she’ll come. I’d love to meet her.
You mentioned that you knew George Michael. I’m sure he’d be happy about this if he were around.
I know he’d be happy. I wish he was here to see it. But somewhere, he’s really happy. He’s smiling and grooving. He was unique. The music that he made was so stand out for that time.
I really hope Rage Against The Machine come and play, and you have a chance to be onstage with them. That would also be an incredible moment.
I do too. I hope they’ll come and play. You talk about influential? Those are the bands so many young bands can be traced back to. I really hope they’re there as well.
It’s going to be in Brooklyn in November. I’m sure it’s on your calendar.
Not only is it on my calendar, I texted my family and said, “You guys are all coming.” We’re going to recreate my first Grammy’s where I brought all 14 of my family members out, including my 90-year-old grandmother. We’re just going to recreate the first Grammys and load up a whole table full of Crows.
How will you pick three songs to play from your whole career?
What I’d love to do is “Faith” and “Running Up That Hill” and honor everybody else. What I’ll probably do is sit down and figure out what I’m going to play. I don’t know. It’s too much to even think about.
Well, it’s definitely overdue. It’s very cool they brought you in on your first ballot.
It really is. I’m blown away. Like I said, I really didn’t expect it. I was more braced for, “Okay, there’s always next year.”
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