Backup singers don’t often make the leap into the spotlight, and when they do, they usually fall right back into the shadows soon afterwards. When Sheryl Crow jumped forward, she never looked back.
Crow spent the mid 80’s singing commercial jingles for the likes of McDonald’s and Toyota before joining Michael Jackson as a backing vocalist and duet partner on his massive Bad tour, her first taste of the spotlight. She subsequently appeared on albums by Stevie Wonder, Don Henley, and Kenny Loggins, and even managed to place one of her songs on the soundtrack to the hit movie Point Break, her first release as a solo artist. Still, she remained unknown, and when her debut album was scrapped in the early 90’s because neither she nor her record company thought it was any good, it looked like she might stay unknown.
Connections help, though, and around this time, Crow joined a loose collective of musicians and songwriters assembled by producer Bill Bottrell (who had worked extensively with Michael Jackson, Madonna, ELO, and Tom Petty) called the Tuesday Night Music Club. Although their meetings began as a casual place to woodshed ideas, their writing sessions eventually took on a sharper focus and formed the basis for Crow’s official debut, aptly titled Tuesday Night Music Club, and the whole group ended up in the studio recording the album with her.
During the sessions, Botrell gave Crow a book of poems by a writer named Wyn Cooper. She particularly liked the opening line from one of his poems called “Fun” (All I want is to have a little fun before I die…), so she contacted Cooper and asked if she could adapt “Fun” into a song, which he happily agreed to. Crow hewed very closely to his original text and then she and her collaborators worked out the 70’s-inspired, groove-filled music.
It seems odd in retrospect, but when they finished “All I Wanna Do” it was considered a throwaway track and almost didn’t make the album. Crow’s little brother, however, insisted it was a hit and she kept it on the final tracklist. But the label wasn’t convinced and released two other singles first — both failed to create much of a stir.
Finally, in 1994, after Tuesday Night Music Club had already been out for a year, “All I Wanna Do” was released as a single and quickly climbed to #2 in the US, the biggest hit Crow would ever have. She would never be in the background again. Thanks, little bro!
So watch the sun come up over Santa Monica Boulevard. And have some fun … with Sheryl Crow.