With a shooting massacre that left 59 people dead and the death of a musical great, there was no escaping the loss suffered on Monday — even at a positive event celebrating female athletes and industry leaders.
When Sheryl Crow took to the stage at the espnW Women + Sports Summit, she managed to touch on both tragedies and uplift the audience at the same time following the emotional day.
“We’ve all got heavy hearts tonight not just about Vegas but from losing someone close to us,” Crow said during her twilight performance at the Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach, California. “So we’re playing in Tom Petty’s memory.
“I was just a huge fan,” she added, in honor of Petty, who died earlier that night in Los Angeles after going into cardiac arrest at age 66.
The Grammy winner went on to belt out her hit “If It Makes You Happy” as a tribute to the millions of people who the late singer made happy during his solo career and also with The Heartbreakers, and succeeded in getting the crowd — including ESPN talent and top executives — up and dancing.
Along with Petty, she also paid tribute to “another one for someone who’s gone on to the great beyond — Gregg Allman,” who died in May.
Earlier in the session, Crow sat down with ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Cari Champion to both reflect on the day’s events and offer up her own life advice.
“It’s been an interesting day by virtue of what is going on in the world,” Crow said. “But it’s important to bring a dialogue that’s up-lifting.”
The “My Favorite Mistake” singer went on to share her perspective on important cultural issues, such as our addiction to technology.
“I’m older than a lot of you guys, so I grew up with the phone on the wall in the kitchen,” Crow said. “Now I have kids, I don’t want them to remember me looking down or half listening.
“I made an agreement with myself that I would deter the feeling of needing to be somewhere else,” the mother of two boys said. “I put my mind on silent and only check it [the phone] once an hour. It has been really liberating for me, we’re just too used to being distracted now.
“My newest album ‘Be Myself’ is about how it must be hard to grow up with a gadget that tells you what you need to look like and what you need to do to have followers. I don’t want people to be a follower. I want them to be able to say, ‘I love being who I am and I love that you are being who you are.'”
Crow also reminisced about beginning her career as a backup dancer for the King of Pop himself. “I was school teacher in Missouri, I drove to L.A. and crashed a Michael Jackson audition … and I got it,” she recalled. “If you don’t try, you never know. I’d never had a passport and a month later I was in Tokyo in front of 70,000 people.
As for the “Thriller” singer, “You don’t know how hard it is to invent something that doesn’t exist,” she said. “To watch Michael Jackson defying gravity, I could see the divinity in him. When he stepped out on stage, there was something that changed the molecules in the room. When you see Mia Hamm or Serena Williams and you see the odds of that and what goes into it, it propels all of us to be the best that we can be.”
Now 55, Crow said, “I still feel super young and as excited and on fire about music and life as I ever have. I feel more connected to who I am than I ever have in life. If compassion isn’t the basis of everything you do in your life, then you’re short-changing yourself and others,” she advised the captivated crowd.
“Don’t base your life on what you think it is supposed to be. Maybe the adventure or challenge is not to tell the story at all. Maybe there is infinite possibility and something bigger than what your brain can picture.”
Watch the video of Crow’s performance above.
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