Rodney Crowell

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Rodney Crowell
Rodney Crowell 1.jpg
Crowell onstage at Whelan's, Dublin January, 2009
Background information
Born(1950-08-07) August 7, 1950 (age 63)
Houston, Texas, United States
GenresCountry
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals
Guitar
Years active1978–present
LabelsWarner Bros., Columbia, MCA, Sugar Hill, Epic, Yep Roc
Associated actsRosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, The Notorious Cherry Bombs, Los Super Seven
WebsiteOfficial Site
 
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Rodney Crowell
Rodney Crowell 1.jpg
Crowell onstage at Whelan's, Dublin January, 2009
Background information
Born(1950-08-07) August 7, 1950 (age 63)
Houston, Texas, United States
GenresCountry
OccupationsSinger-songwriter, record producer
InstrumentsVocals
Guitar
Years active1978–present
LabelsWarner Bros., Columbia, MCA, Sugar Hill, Epic, Yep Roc
Associated actsRosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, The Notorious Cherry Bombs, Los Super Seven
WebsiteOfficial Site

Rodney Crowell (born August 7, 1950) is a Grammy Award-winning American musician, known primarily for his work as a singer and songwriter in country music. Crowell has had five number one singles on Hot Country Songs, all from his 1988 album Diamonds & Dirt. He has also written songs and produced for other artists.

He was influenced by songwriters Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Crowell played guitar and sang for three years in Emmylou Harris' "Hot Band".

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

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Rodney Crowell on Bookbits radio.

Crowell was born on August 7, 1950 in Crosby, Texas, to James Walter Crowell and Addie Cauzette Willoughby.{Chinaberry Sidewalks (New York: Knopf, 2011) He had come from a musical family, with one grandfather being a church choir leader and the other a bluegrass banjo player. His grandmother played guitar and his father sang semi-professionally at bars and honky tonks.[1] At age 11, he starting playing drums in his father's band. In his teen years, he played in various garage rock bands in Houston, performing hits of the day mixed with a few country numbers.[1]

1972 - 1986: Early Career[edit]

In August 1972 he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in search of a musical career and got a job as a songwriter after being discovered by Jerry Reed.[1] He later met and befriended fellow songwriter Guy Clark, who became a major influence on his songwriting and vice versa.[2][3] While there, he said, "I got a real cold splash in the face of what real songwriting is about. I started filling my mind with as many symbols and images as I could. I started reading. I got real hungry to have something to contribute".[2] Emmylou Harris had recorded one of Crowell's songs, "Till I Gain Control Again", on her Elite Hotel album and made a request to meet him. After he sat in with Emmylou at her gig at the Armadillo World Headquarters in early January 1975, she asked him to play rhythm guitar in her backing band, The Hot Band. He accepted and left the following day to join Emmylou in Los Angeles.[2][4]

Crowell at the Grammy Awards in February, 1990

In 1977 as a side project, he formed a musical group, The Cherry Bombs, together with Vince Gill, Tony Brown and others.[5] One year later, he signed a solo deal with Warner Bros. Records and in late 1978, released his debut album, Ain't Living Long Like This.

His debut album, as well his following two albums, But What Will the Neighbors Think and Rodney Crowell, were not commercially successful despite garnering a huge cult following. Crowell himself criticized his debut album for not translating onto vinyl the same clarity and energy he felt in the studio. His single "Ashes by Now" from "But What Will the Neighbors Think" reached No. 37 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981.

Though he had already several country hits by artists covering his songs (including "Ain't Living Long Like This" by Waylon Jennings, "Leaving Louisiana..." by the Oak Ridge Boys, and several covers by Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Reed and others), Crowell got his first big taste of pop songwriting success with "Shame on the Moon". "Shame on the Moon" was recorded on the 1982 album "The Distance" by Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band. Glenn Frey joined Seger on background harmony on the song. Appealing to a broad cross-section of listeners, the song spent four weeks at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart, topped the adult contemporary chart, and placed in the Top 15 of the country chart in early 1983. The song's dark, poetic and hypnotic style helped boost Crowell's cult status.

The album Rodney Crowell was released in 1981 (see 1981 in country music) by Warner Bros. Records and was his last album on that label before switching to Columbia. The first album Crowell produced by himself, it reached No. 47 on the Top Country Albums chart and No. 105 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. The songs "Stars on the Water" and "Victim or a Fool" were released as singles. "Stars on the Water" reached No. 30 on the Hot Country Songs chart, Crowell's highest charting song up to that point. It peaked at No. 21 on the Canadian country charts. "Victim or a Fool" reached No. 34 in the U.S.

In 1981, Rodney left Warner Bros.' roster, putting his career on hold to produce several of his wife Rosanne Cash's albums.[2]

In 1983 Crystal Gayle had a number one Country single with his song "'Til I Gain Control Again" from her first Elektra album, "True Love". The song was first recorded in 1975 by Emmylou Harris.

1986 - 1995: Columbia Records and Mainstream Success[edit]

After producing Rosanne Cash's Rhythm & Romance, Crowell signed to Columbia Records in 1986. His first album for that label, Street Language, was co-produced with Booker T. Jones and featured a blend of Soul and country music.[6] The album did not chart.

Although best known as a songwriter and alternative country artist, Crowell enjoyed mainstream popularity during the late 1980s and early 1990s. His critically acclaimed album 1988's Diamonds & Dirt produced five consecutive No. 1 singles during a 17-month span in 1988 and 1989: "It's Such a Small World" (a duet with Cash), "I Couldn't Leave You If I Tried," "She's Crazy For Leavin'," "After All This Time" and "Above and Beyond" (a cover of Buck Owens' 1962 hit). His follow-up album, 1989's Keys to the Highway, produced two top 5 hits in 1990, which were "Many a Long and Lonesome Highway" and "If Looks Could Kill."

As Crowell's popularity in hit-radio country music faded, he continued his prolific songwriting. After 1992's Life Is Messy, he left Columbia Records and signed to MCA Records where he released two more albums.

2001 - Present[edit]

In 2001, after a brief hiatus from recording, he released The Houston Kid on Sugar Hill Records, his first studio album since 1995's Jewel of the South. Many songs on the album were semi-autobiographical, and the album included a duet Crowell had recorded and released as a single in 1998 with his ex father-in-law Johnny Cash, "I Walk the Line (Revisited)". Crowell followed up this effort with Fate's Right Hand in 2003 and The Outsider in 2005, both of which came out on Columbia Nashville, a division of Sony Music. Leading critics and Crowell consider these three albums his finest work as a solo artist.

2004 saw the release of The Notorious Cherry Bombs, a reunion of Crowell's 1970s road band, including Vince Gill and Tony Brown. The future Keith Urban hit "Making Memories of Us" was included on this disc. In 2005, Crowell served as producer for established Irish singer/songwriter Kieran Goss on the album "Blue Sky Sunrise".

In 2008 CMT announced that Crowell's next album, Sex and Gasoline, would come out on Yep Roc Records, ending his relationship with Sony Music. This marked the first time Crowell did not produce his own CD, turning production over to Joe Henry. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album.[7] Crowell figures prominently in musician-neuroscientist Daniel Levitin's book The World in Six Songs for which he was interviewed, and three Crowell songs, "Shame On The Moon," "I Know Love Is All I Need" and "I Walk the Line (Revisited)" are featured in the book.

In 2009, Crowell wrote Wynonna Judd's title track to her album Sing: Chapter 1, which also was released in 2009. The song was given several electronic dance music remixes, and sent to dance radio as Judd's second release from the album. In August 2009, the single reached No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs chart.

In 2010, Chely Wright will release her seventh studio album on Vanguard Records. The album titled Lifted Off the Ground is produced by Crowell. Wright also made a cameo appearance in Crowell's 2008 music video Sex and Gasoline.

A memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, was published in 2011.

In 2012, KIN: Songs by Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr was released by Vanguard Records. Karr wrote the lyrics and Crowell set them to music. It was Karr's first foray into songwriting. Four tracks on the album are performed by Crowell (one as a duet with Kris Kristofferson). The rest are performed by a variety of singers: Norah Jones, Vince Gill, Lucinda Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Roseanne Cash, and Emmylou Harris.

In March of 2013, Rodney and Emmylou Harris issued a duet album entitled Old Yellow Moon on Harris' longtime label Nonesuch Records. The album won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.[8]

Personal life[edit]

He was married to Rosanne Cash (daughter of Johnny Cash), from 1979 to 1992 and they had an influence on each other's careers, with Rodney producing most of her albums during that period and her success influencing his songwriting. They collaborated on a number of duets, including 1988's "It's Such a Small World." Although Crowell and Cash are now divorced, they remain on friendly terms, performing together occasionally. Crowell and Cash have three daughters, Caitlin, Chelsea, and Carrie, and together raised Hannah, Rodney's daughter from a previous marriage. He married Claudia Church in 1998.

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Anon. "Sounding Board (Rodney Crowell)." Spirit Lake Beacon 28 Sep 1978: 15-TV
  2. ^ a b c d Campbell, Mary. "Singer has adjusted to his wife's greater success." The Intelligencer (Doylestown, Pennsylvania) 17 Jul 1988: C-2
  3. ^ Rutkoski, Rex. "Crowell Makes it in Recording Field." News Record (Warrendale, PA) 1 Jul 1980: B-6
  4. ^ AP. "Rodney Crowell is a Nashville newcomer with solid background." The Galveston Daily News 19 Sep 1989: 9-A
  5. ^ Inductees, Music City Walk of Fame
  6. ^ Owens, Thom. "Rodney Crowell — Street Language". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-09-07. 
  7. ^ CMT : News : Rodney Crowell's New Album Coming in September
  8. ^ Whitaker, Sterling. "2014 Grammy Awards – Country Winners List". Retrieved 2 February 2014. 

External links[edit]

Awards
Preceded by
Trent Reznor
AMA Song of the Year (Songwriter)
2004
Succeeded by
Mark Heard
Preceded by
Guy Clark
AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting
2006
Succeeded by
Willie Nelson