Sheryl Crow: ‘Surviving breast cancer redefined who and how I am’

The singer, 59, talks about music, family, relationships – and reveals she’s shorter than we think

Sat 10 Jul 2021 14.00 BST

Music was my life as a kid. My earliest memory is singing as we drove through Missouri in our powder-blue station wagon. Having swing-band-player parents meant the house was filled with dancing. Music was my identity; I never thought about any other future.

I skipped school at 15 to enter a best-legs competition – and won. The contest was being run by a local radio station. I don’t remember who was judging – a bunch of dirty old men, I’m sure – but I proudly walked across that stage to victory. I may have been grounded and thrown in detention, but I kept hold of my $100 winnings.

Surviving breast cancer redefined who and how I am, although I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Until then, I’d spent a lifetime being a caretaker for everyone around me. From then, I started to put myself first. I had voices at the back of my head telling me whatever I did wasn’t good enough. Now, finally, I’ve silenced them.

I should never have been driving after long nights of partying while writing my first record. I was 29, and would drive back from Pasadena through the canyon to my Hollywood home after too many drinks. I wish I could go back and confiscate the keys.

Being an excellent baton-twirler is a truly useless skill that gets you absolutely nowhere in life.

I could run a marathon in a pair of Yves Saint Laurent heels – you learn to adapt when you’re just under 5ft 4in. My height has never bothered me, but people think I’m taller because of the smoke and mirrors on stage. “You’re so short, Sheryl,” people often say when they first meet me. “Yes,” I reply, “I’m aware.”

Our kids will suffer for our inaction on climate change. I’m terrified for their futures. We refuse to grasp the magnitude of the problem, so we ignore it. It’s what that tells my children about humanity that hurts the most. I’m raising them to be empathic, to care for others. What will I say when they ask why we let the world burn?

Being at the party doesn’t bother me any more. For me, motherhood trumps red carpets and award shows. I became a parent when I was older and had already achieved what I wanted in my life. Now my joy comes from raising these two awesome people.

If I knew the secret to a happy relationship, I wouldn’t have been engaged three times while somehow ending up single. I’ve had amazing relationships, have loved and been loved, but I’ve had a weird life with a job that kept me travelling. I’m content and happy, but would I like someone to join our little family? Of course.

Eight years ago I was driving down a country road when a speeding car came zooming right at us. I swerved as best I could, and the other driver skimmed us. My friends and I sat in silence as death passed by. I think a lot about why we were spared. I just thank the angels.

I’ve tried to be politically outspoken when I’ve felt like it mattered, but too often I’d be told to “shut up and sing” by strangers. I heard that so many times that I started to do it, channelling my beliefs through my music instead.

You don’t have to be a heart-broken, tortured soul to write a good song. It took me too long to learn that.