The singer revealed that the King of Pop's manager even threatened to end her career if she told anyone about the incident.
Trigger Warning: This story contains details of sexual abuse and emotional abuse that may be disturbing to readers.
In 1987, the King of Pop, while basking in the success of his hit album Bad, was preparing for his first-ever solo world tour. Auditions were being held in LA for backup singers, and an aspiring singer-songwriter from Missouri gatecrashed the event and declared she'd love to be a part of his tour. “Hi Michael, my name is Sheryl Crow and I just moved here,” she announced, per to the Independent. “I’m a former music teacher and I would love to go on the road with you.”
According to Cheat Sheet, Crow managed to convince the star, and a month later, she performed alongside Jackson at the Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo. The singer toured with Michael Jackson for the next 16 months, harmonized with him, and shared the limelight on songs like I Just Can’t Stop Loving You and Man in the Mirror. It quite literally was a dream come true for her.
She then went on to perform for a few other stars before making it on her own in the early '90s. Now, the 59-year-old singer, who is preparing to host a streaming concert from her home, looks back on her journey. “Naiveté is such a beautiful thing,” the nine-time Grammy winner said, adding that she learned a lot about music from her tour with Michael Jackson.
“It was incredible in every way, shape, and form for a young person from a really small town to see the world and to work with arguably the greatest pop star,” she says. “But I also got a crash course in the music industry."
“It’s really interesting to go back and revisit some of this old stuff and the experiences that went along with it, and then to compare it with where we are now,” says Crow.
During the tour, there were rumors that Jackson was interested in Crow, his “sexy backing singer,” and that he'd even offered her $2m to have his child. However, Crow set the record clear in her audiobook memoir Words + Music, released last September, that these rumors were most likely planted by none other than Jackson's manager, Frank DiLeo. He said it “to make Mike look like he was interested in women,” but it was actually DiLeo who was interested in her.
At the time, Crow didn't really delve into details, but two songs on her 1993 debut album had few references to him. The song What I Can Do for You was written from the perspective of a powerful abuser, and the stream-of-consciousness The Na-Na Song, which includes the defiant lines, “Frank DiLeo’s dong / Maybe if I’d have let him I’d have had a hit song.” Later it was revealed that the manager had sexually assaulted her during the tour.
He also allegedly blackmailed her, saying that if she refused to listen to him or told anyone about the incidents, he would ruin her career before it even began. “To be able to play that stuff about the long bout of sexual harassment I endured during the Michael Jackson tour and to talk about it in the midst of the #MeToo movement... it feels like we’ve come a long way, but it doesn’t feel like we’re quite there yet.”
She adds that her memoir Words + Music, “was the first time I’ve ever talked about it and it felt really uncomfortable, but it felt, to me, so much more empowering to be able to talk about it and then play the music that was inspired by it. Isn’t that what music is really for? To help us work through whatever our experiences are, and hopefully for the collective to find their own situations in your music too?”
After the tour ended, Crow fell into a deep depression, reports Page Six. It didn't help that the attorney she hired to deal with the issue advised her to put up with DiLeo because that was the only way she could advance in her career.
“It was disillusioning. I think when your dream bubble is burst you either go: ‘OK, well, I’m going to forget that dream,’ or you do what I did, which was wallow in it for about a year, and then you pull your bootstraps up and you get back to work,” she said.
DiLeo worked with several artists over the years, most notably Jackson, reports PEOPLE. He managed the artist in the late '80s and again in 2009, up until Jackson's death that June. DiLeo died in August 2011 due to complications following heart surgery. He was 63.
Cover Image Source: (L) Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia / (R) Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images