All-Star Sessions

 In Culture, Feature

Sheryl Crow rocked her hometown and kicked off the All-Star Game celebrations while raising money for cancer research.

On July 11th, Sheryl Crow performed an All-Star charity concert under the Arch. Presented by Pepsi, the show featured a $1 million donation by Major League Baseball to Stand Up To Cancer, a program whose mission is to enable cutting-edge research to ultimately find a cure for cancer. The year-old charity has raised more than $100 million so far.

At one point or another, I [have] lived everywhere [in St. Louis],” Sheryl Crow told me in an interview the afternoon before her July 11th All-Star Summer kick-off concert on the riverfront. We sat in a suite at the Hyatt Regency downtown, which offered a fantastic view of the Arch grounds, where a crowd of 100,000 would gather the following evening to see Crow perform in her hometown.

Though she grew up in Kennett, Mo., threeand- a-half hours south of St. Louis, it was here that Crow’s career as a musician took off—after graduating from Mizzou in ’84, she moved to St. Louis to teach music at Kellison Elementary in Fenton, which afforded her the opportunity to pursue her music in local clubs at night. She also got gigs recording advertising jingles (her first was a back-to-school ad for Famous-Barr), which funded her move to Los Angeles in 1986.

But it wasn’t her Midwest roots or her love for the Cardinals—of which she has much—that made performing at last month’s show so meaningful for the singer-songwriter. For her, it was mostly about the cause—the concert, while free to fans, came packaged with a hefty $1 million donation by Major League Baseball to Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). Crow, who battled breast cancer three years ago after a routine mammogram revealed calcifications in both breasts, has since become a poster child for early detection and a spokesperson for breast cancer, which she says is a dubious honor. “While the experience wouldn’t be one I would’ve chosen for myself, I do feel like it’s a grand opportunity for me since I have a wide female base,” she told us. This summer, Major League Baseball also declared cancer as its cause, along with a dozen others, as part of its commitment to dedicating 2009 All-Star Summer to charitable initiatives and celebrating the importance of community service. Backed by sponsors such as State Farm, Bank of America, MasterCard and Pepsi, who all increased the money they gave to charities at this year’s event, the St. Louis extravaganza became the most extensive charitable event in All-Star history. The concert streamed live on, where viewers were asked to donate to Stand Up To Cancer, while Crow called on local fans to take action immediately. “I want you all to take out your cell phones and text STAND to 40202,” she told the crowd, just after her band played the hit song “Home.” “I know you have cell phones—you’ve been taking pictures of me. Take them out. You can help end cancer in my lifetime. And yours.”

Throughout the night, Crow related to fans and showed lots of love for The Lou, sharing how she had to drag her band out of Lumière Place’s casino and admitting that she’s a Bud Light girl. On a personal note, she gave a shout out to MJ at the end of “Can’t Cry Anymore,” saying “That’s for you, Michael.” She got her first break as a backup singer for Michael Jackson and spent two years traveling with him on his “Bad” tour in the late ’80s. Just a few years later she would record “Tuesday Night Music Club,” which launched her into a new echelon as an international sensation, earning her her first three Grammys. Hit songs from that album, like “All I Wanna Do” and “Strong Enough” (which she fittingly dedicated to Albert Pujols), got the crowd pumped, although she didn’t have to do much to impress. At 47, she looks amazing—healthy, fit and happy. She’s been through a lot in the last several years—some of it tough (a crumbled relationship, her battle with breast cancer), and some of it uplifting (including the 2007 adoption of her now 2-year-old son Wyatt).

Now after 15 years of recording, performing and earning the distinction as one of the Grammy’s most winning females, Crow is excited to use her celebrity to promote causes she believes in, having held concerts for breast cancer awareness, environmental causes and children’s charities. Major League Baseball saw Crow as the perfect performer to kick off All-Star Week in St. Louis—they asked her to participate at last year’s All-Star Game in New York, where she sang the National Anthem. “Sheryl Crow is a wonderful performer who deserves enormous credit for using her fame to shine a light on causes that are important to the health and welfare of our country,” said Baseball Commissioner Allen “Bud” Selig.

So she jumped at the chance to perform on the banks of the mighty Mississippi, where, during the concert, she said she “learned to water ski, where [she] learned to fear the rolling river and where [she] fell in love with it.” On those same banks at Mississippi Nights on Laclede’s Landing, Crow first played her hit “Leaving Las Vegas” two decades ago. “I hope I’m better now,” she said when playing in front of her fans under the Arch. And she is, in every sense of the phrase.


ALIVE: Where in St. Louis have you lived?
SHERYL CROW: At one time or another I lived everywhere. I lived in the Central West End. I
lived in Georgetown Apartments in Webster Groves [when I taught school here after college]. After my first record, my manager and I moved back and put together a band made of St. Louis guys and lived in the Central West End above Left Bank Books.

ALIVE: This will be your second year in a row singing the National Anthem at the All-Star Game. Do you ever get nervous singing it?
SC: Yes, it’s the hardest song to sing. Absolutely. Thank God that in the last few years we’ve been using ear bud monitors. It used to be that you would have your voice come back to you in the stadium, so at least [with ear bud monitors] some of the sound is blocked. It was terrible because I would already be judging [myself]—like, “Oh my God, I didn’t sing that very well!”

ALIVE: How has being a parent to your son Wyatt [who she adopted in 2007] influenced how you approach your songwriting?
SC: Gosh, let me tell you, the last record was a completely different experience for me [from the past]. He was 3 months old; we were in a war I was absolutely opposed to from the outset; I had been doing an immense amount of environmental work. I had also been in a relationship that had fallen apart [with Lance Armstrong]. I had just had breast cancer. All these things culminated with this little innocent 3-month-old in the bassinet next to me while I was writing. My sense of urgency was so heightened and my desire to really write from the most acutely honest place that I could write from was tantamount on that record. It was a record that was pointed; it was political; it was personal; it was heartbreaking; it was celebratory.


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