Between the two careers of Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, there are 11 Grammy awards and 25 certifications of platinum sales in the US alone. These two accomplishments by themselves would be more than enough to leave both artists comfortably coasting for the rest of their days, never lifting a finger. To the credit of both Crow and Etheridge, however, neither is content simply floating in nostalgia and occasionally showing up at an “I love the ‘90s” show.
Each artist has been on the road extensively in the last few years, with recent albums – Etheridge's Memphis Rock & Soul in 2016, Crow's Be Myself in 2017 – charting respectably in their homelands, with critics acknowledging their passion for the craft still being present after all these years. This month will see both artists arrive in Australia to perform at the iconic Bluesfest before the two pair up for some killer co-headlining shows in most capital cities. It will mark the first time the two have toured together, and although they occupy different spectrums – Crow primarily in the pop-rock and country fields, Etheridge more towards blues and roots – both their stories and their continued successes make them more likely a pair than you'd think.
At 56, Crow and Etheridge are the same age. Their careers both began in the mid-‘80s – Crow as a backing vocalist who ended up on tour with Michael Jackson, Etheridge as an independent singer-songwriter. In 1993, both had seismic career shifts that would go on to influence the next quarter-century of their lives. The release of Tuesday Night Music Club saw Crow achieve one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed records of the entire decade. ‘All I Wanna Do’, for all of its eccentricities and Talking Heads references, became one of the biggest pop hits on record. Twenty-five years later, the album still holds up considerably – especially in comparison to a lot of the other music making dents on the top-end of the charts at the time, which have become irreparably dated and even kitschy.
Meanwhile, Etheridge was making waves with her six-times platinum record Yes I Am. The title alludes to what was a massive part of Etheridge's 1993, the year she publicly came out during a speech at the Triangle Ball. With it, Etheridge became one of the most prominent lesbian figures in popular music – which, at the time, was somewhat of a rare entity; particularly in the context of rock artists. It's easy to see Etheridge as a trail-blazer for young queer women who felt as though their identity was something to be hidden and not discussed. That same courage comes through in every Courtney Barnett, every Alex the Astronaut, every Tegan & Sara that proudly makes their orientation known. The good Etheridge has done for the wider LGBT musical community still positively radiates over two decades on.
Crow and Etheridge are survivors in their own separate ways. Not only has their music stood the test of time, but both are literal survivors in another sense. In the 2000’s, only a couple of years apart, the two were diagnosed with breast cancer. Since both have gone into remission, each has been open about their experience and hugely supportive of those going through the same thing. Etheridge is a listed advocate and supporter of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, while Crow assisted her surgeon, Dr. Kristi Funk, in opening a new imaging centre at Beverly Hills' Pink Lotus Breast Centre back in 2010. These encounters with an oft-fatal disease have clearly driven both women to pursue their love of music more than ever before.
Bold women, smart women, queer women, guitar-slinging women, women of pop, women of rock, women of blues, women of country ... one way or another, many are indebted to the work and the legacy of Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge. So, when you're seeing these two live in late March or early April, you're seeing decades of musical history unfurl on the stage in front of you. And if that makes you happy, then it really can't be that bad, can it?
The Make Rock Great Again tour kicks off in Perth on Tuesday April 3 thanks to TEG Live.