Sheryl Crow remembers Michael Jackson one year on

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News


One year on from Michael Jackson's death, US musician Sheryl Crow pays tribute to the late performer as she prepares to release a new record inspired by soul and R&B.

Image caption, 100 Miles from Memphis is Crow's seventh studio album

"Like so many other people, I didn't really weigh the importance of his presence until he was gone," says the 48-year-old, who toured with Jackson in the 1980s.

"The Jackson 5's ABC record was the first album I ever owned, and Michael ended up giving me my first gig as a back-up singer."

Crow's latest album, 100 Miles from Memphis, features a cover version of the Jackson 5 song I Want You Back, which the singer describes as "a sort of homage".

"It was a bitter-sweet moment for me to sing that song with the experience that I'd had with him," she reveals.

Crow's last album, 2008 release Detours, followed a eventful period in her life in which she split from fiance Lance Armstrong, adopted a baby son and was diagnosed with breast cancer.

All the above inevitably influenced the finished record, an emotionally charged collection of songs with a pronounced political edge.

Having since adopted a second son, however, Crow has produced a more upbeat disc that harks back to the music she listened to while growing up in Kennett, Missouri.

Image caption, Crow performed with Jackson on his Bad world tour in the late 1980s

"For years I wanted to make a record that was directly linked to my earliest influences," she says.

"After Detours, it seemed a great time to make something that was a more light-hearted, a little more sexy and not quite as heavy."

As the title suggests, Crow grew up near to Memphis, Tennessee - an important force in the genesis of country, rock & roll and the blues.

"I grew up listening to a lot of Stax music, a lot of Memphis artists like Al Green, and a lot of Motown," the singer recalls.

"This record is really a throwback to old soul, with a lot of lyrics based in sensuality and emotion," she continues.

Rolling Stone Keith Richards appears on one of the tracks, while Memphis-born Justin Timberlake sings on Crow's version of the Terence Trent D'Arby hit Sign Your Name.

"It's a great song," she says of the track, which reached number two in the UK singles chart in 1988.

"It was really fun to out a sort of Al Green twist on it."

The year has been one of transition and change for the Grammy award-winning artist, typified by the adoption of baby Levi she announced on her website last month.

Image caption, Crow was engaged to cyclist Lance Armstrong from six months

"It's always an enriching experience having a new little member in your life," she continues, saying her other adopted son - Wyatt, now three - is "very excited" about having a little brother.

Not only that, but 2010 has also seen Crow try her hand at acting with a three-episode stint in US TV show Cougar Town.

The singer played a wine expert in the sitcom, which stars Courtney Cox as a recently divorced woman who begins dating again.

"It was a complete departure from what I'm used to doing, and it was good for me to get outside of my comfort level," Crow says.

"I don't know if I'll pursue it but it was certainly fun to do, especially as I was around people I'm very close to."

100 Miles from Memphis is released on 19 July.

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