Sheryl Crow has endured a lot throughout her multi-decade career in the music industry. But the singer-songwriter, 59, will never forget the sexual harassment she experienced while on tour with Michael Jackson.
Just 25 when she joined the iconic performer’s tour in 1987, Crow is tremendously grateful for the experience. However, she isn’t holding back about its downsides.
“Naiveté is such a beautiful thing,” Crow told the Independentin a revealing new interview. “It was incredible in every way, shape and form for a young person from a really small town to see the world and to work with arguably the greatest pop star. But I also got a crash course in the music industry.”
Crow said she faced repeated incidents of sexual harassment by Jackson’s manager, Frank DiLeo, who promised to make her famous and threatened that if she said no or reported him, he would destroy her career. During the tour, tabloids began reporting that Jackson was romantically involved with his “sexy backing singer” and that he had offered her $2 million to have his child. In her audiobook memoir Words + Music, Crow shared that she now believes these stories were intentionally planted by DiLeo, who died in 2011, “to make Mike look like he was interested in women.”
Looking back on the experience, Crow says it’s “really interesting” to revisit this history, and see how much things have changed (or not) since then. “To be able to play that stuff about the long bout of sexual harassment I endured during the Michael Jackson tour and to talk about it in the midst of the #MeToo movement… it feels like we’ve come a long way, but it doesn’t feel like we’re quite there yet,” the singer mused.
After the tour, Crow sunk into a depression, but ultimately fought her way into the industry as a solo artist, and her debut album Tuesday Night Music Club went on to sell eight million copies across the globe. But even at that level of success, Crow experienced sexism as disputes were raised over who had written her hit songs. Some alleged that Crow was a front for talented men, a charge she now calls “beyond insulting.” But the attacks only drove her to work harder, and Crow channeled that into her next album.
Discussing the harassment she’s experienced was “really uncomfortable,” but Crow found it “so much more empowering to be able to talk about it and then play the music that was inspired by it,” she said. “Isn’t that what music is really for? To help us work through whatever our experiences are, and hopefully for the collective to find their own situations in your music too?”
Crow has also faced health struggles over the years. In 2006, she discovered she had breast cancer just six days after splitting from then-fiancé Lance Armstrong.
“I was 44 years old, no cancer in my history, was very healthy, ate well, very athletic. It was just a random mammogram, and I wound up being diagnosed with stage one breast cancer,” Crow previously told Yahoo Entertainment. “And so, I wound up being a sort of a spokesperson for it, because I think it really does matter. I think part of that was laying on that radiation table and having to sort of meet myself.”
Crow went on to recover from cancer and became a single mom, adopting two boys, Wyatt and Levi, on her own. She’s raising her 11- and 14-year-old sons, whom she calls “the most incredible, perfect boys in the world,” in Nashville to avoid the spotlight.
“It wouldn’t have been my first choice to do it by myself,” Crow previously told Yahoo about her path to motherhood. “But to be perfectly honest, I feel like the way that my life has — I keep saying the way that it rolled out, but it really is true — the way things have happened for me have not been conventional.”
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