The first time Sheryl Crow was introduced to Sting in the late 1980s, she was an unknown musician singing backup for the king of pop, Michael Jackson.
Now she's a big name in her own right. And on Thursday, Crow and Sting - who have 25 Grammy Awards between them and have since become great friends - are teaming up as the star entertainers (along with the Canadian Tenors) at this year's One Night Live benefit for Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, raising funds for the hospital's Women & Babies Program.
In a conference call from her farm in Nashville and Sting's apartment in New York, the pair - who are both active in political/human-rights/environmental causes - say committing to headline the Toronto event was important, especially since both are parents. Sting has six kids, and Crow has an adopted two-year old son, named Wyatt. Both freely admit that the secret of successful parenting is a puzzle they are still trying to figure out. They just give it their best shot.
Did you sign up immediately when Sunnybrook placed the call?
Sting: I did it because Sheryl was doing it.
Crow: And I did it because Sting was doing it.
Sting: They called me four or five months ago, and it seemed like a no-brainer. My kids aren't babies any more, but they're a huge part of my life.
Crow: My son is the most important person in mine. I love it when there's a charitable component. Plus, I get to see Sting play, and I'm a huge fan. And be part of something that is doing good work.
Sting, you've been around the parenting block six times - any words of wisdom to pass on to Sheryl?
Sting: Well, I haven't had a baby for a while. ...My eldest is 32 - I was only 10 when I had him [he jokes]. And my youngest is 13; three girls and three boys. I've found it's easier to bring up girls. The girls adore me. The boys want to get rid of me.
The 13-year-old has plans and I'm just in the way, you know?
I met Sheryl's little boy last year in Tokyo. He's a star. He's going to be a spiritual leader or something. His mother just won't allow him to go into politics. Truly, he's amazing and she's great with him.
Sheryl, you were active for the Democrats in the last U.S. election. Sting, you're big on human-rights causes. What are your views about Barack Obama's impact on the United States' tarnished record on human rights?
Sheryl: I think I can reiterate what most people are feeling - and that's a feeling of optimism. We have a hard road ahead of us, but in the first 100 days, he's really tried to tackle all the problems he was handed. He also represents to me a stillness we haven't seen in any of our leaders for a long, long time. A sense of consciousness that I don't think we've seen in any of our recent presidents, if ever.
Sting: I met him and Michelle on Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Ball. He has an amazing charisma. He can think and speak at the same time. I think Americans have had this terrible sense of misrepresentation for the past eight years. I love America, and I want to see Americans proud of their country. It's a huge step in the right direction.
Are the two of you going to have a chance to rehearse before Thursday's event? And will you perform Sheryl's single 'Always on Your Side' together?
Sheryl: I have a gig in Chicago two days before, so I don't think we're going to have much time to rehearse. But I always feel at home in Toronto so I'm not worried. I've been there a lot.
Sting: I've got a gig [tonight] with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra... so I haven't had much time to think about [it] either. I'm blushing here, though, I have to say, because I'm a little bit terrified about playing with the CSO. ...I'm singing and half of my material will be orchestrated for the greatest orchestra in the world.
Sheryl: As for whether we'll be singing 'Always on Your Side' - it would be nice to do that. We'll talk about that. I loved this song when I wrote it. And when it came out on my album, I thought it should have had more attention than it had. When we looked at it again, we realized it needed a male counterpart. The first person who came to mind was Sting. He and I have known each other a long time. I met him when I was a back-up singer in 1989 for Michael Jackson. I've always been impressed with him. He's an immensely talented, great guy. Yup, that song might be perfect for that particular evening.
Sting: I'm blushing again. [Sheryl's] not only a great back-up singer, but a great musician. I was so thrilled she became a star.
© Globe and Mail by Gayle Macdonald
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