Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,” Lilith Fair Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

In 1997, Sarah McLachlan gathered a folksy coven of women singer-songwriters for a summer of girl power awesomeness called Lilith Fair. While some now think of Lilith Fair with gentle mocking—a utopia of calico feminism that was even parodied on Saturday Night Live—the festival’s first iteration was a music industry revolution. As the biggest all-female festival ever in a male-dominated industry.

Lilith Fair came back the second year with a lineup that was much more diverse, racially and musically. You might even consider it legendary. To read the lineup now is to marvel that this was pulled off even then (bearing in mind, not every artist played every city): Lauryn Hill, whose groundbreaking The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released at the end of that summer; Erykah Badu; Bonnie Raitt; Missy Elliott, at the peak of her collaboration with Timbaland; Sinead O’Connor; Liz Phair; Lucinda Williams; Queen Latifah; the Indigo Girls; Natalie Merchant; Suzanne Vega; Meredith Brooks; Joan Osborne; Shawn Colvin; Lisa Loeb; Me’Shell Ndegeceollo; and more. (Full disclosure, I went. It was unreal.)

Lauryn Hill was born in East Orange, New Jersey, but her family would eventually settle in South Orange, where she would meet a fellow future star: actor Zach Braff.

Hill immersed herself in Motown and R&B at a young age when she discovered her mom’s old vinyl’s in the attic. She began singing in earnest at age 7 when her mom took her to see a production of Annie. After that, she drove her family crazy by singing the show’s tunes non-stop.

At age 12, Hill competed on the amateur portion of It’s Showtime at the Apollo, singing the Miracles’ “Who’s Lovin’ You.”

Hill met her Fugees bandmates, Prakazrel Michel and his cousin Wyclef Jean, when she was just 13.

Moviegoers may remember Hill from her role in Sister Act II: Back in the Habit, but she also had a stint on the CBS soap opera As the World Turns (playing Kira Johnson) and played a gum-chewing elevator operator in the period drama King of the Hill, starring Jesse Bradford and Adrien Brody.

Hill wrote much of the material for her debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, while pregnant with her first child, Zion David, with Rohan Marley (Bob Marley’s son). She credits the pregnancy for re-igniting her creativity: “I had the desire to write in a capacity that I hadn’t done in a while. I don’t know if it’s a hormonal or emotional thing… I was very in touch with my feelings at the time.” She added: “Every time I got hurt, every time I was disappointed, every time I learned, I just wrote a song.”

Hill made the 1999 Grammy Awards a night of firsts. With her five Grammy wins for her debut album: Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, Best R&B Album and Album of the Year – she became the first woman to win five Grammy Awards in the same night, beating Carole’s King’s record of four. She was also the first woman to earn ten nominations in one year, and the album was the first hip-hop record to win Album of the Year.

Years before stardom came knocking, Hill featured in MC Lyte’s 1991 Off-Broadway hip-hop rendering of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. She also appeared that same year as an extra in the video for the female rapper’s “Poor Georgie.”

The Recording Industry Association of America announced on February 16, 2021 that The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill had gone Diamond after selling over 10 million copies in the US. This meant Lauryn Hill made history as the first female rapper to achieve that feat.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,” Lilith Fair Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

In 1996, singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan was tipping from alternative icon into something more like traditional pop success. At 26 she had garnered serious momentum—and 2.8 million albums sold in the United States—after her 1993 crossover Fumbling Towards Ecstasy. But as she ascended through the music industry, she kept hearing “no.” No, we can’t play your song—we already have another woman artist in rotation. No, you can’t put two women on the same concert bill—it’s box office poison. Sexism was passed off as age-old industry logic—logic that forced her into competition with other women artists to be the sole exceptional woman allowed opportunity.

McLachlan was not alone.

So she presented a challenge to her team—let’s prove them wrong—and in 1997, they assembled a bill of women to play massive outdoor venues across the States. McLachlan headlined, and they stacked the show with superstars like Tracy Chapman, Aimee Mann, Suzanne Vega, Emmylou Harris, Paula Cole, Patti Smith, and Lisa Loeb. The backlash to what would come to be called Lilith Fair was swift. From the beginning, Lilith frequently encountered skepticism from the industry and withering hostility from the media (“It is, in short, a total crock of shit,” wrote critic Gina Arnold), and was attacked by the Christian right. The Los Angeles Times reported music-industry insiders deriding it as “Lesbopalooza.”

But during its three-year run, Lilith Fair made over 130 tour stops in North America, featured roughly 300 women artists, drew more than 1.5 million people, and grossed over $52 million—more than $10 million of which was donated to women’s charities. The festival helped establish the careers of Missy Elliott, Erykah Badu, Dido, Nelly Furtado, Christina Aguilera,and Tegan and Sara, and brought the Dixie Chicks to a mainstream audience. The bills featured out, established artists onstage, new artists alongside veterans, and an entire village of progressive activist causes. But more than anything else, it was visionary. Lilith Fair was glimpsing a possible future in which women were rightfully placed at music’s center and not its margins.

Yet two decades later, even as artists like Haim and Brandi Carlile cite Lilith as inspiration, it’s just as often a cultural punch line. This is how Lilith came to be—and what it ended up meaning to a generation that had never seen anything like it before and brought hope for a more gender neutral equality for females in an otherwise male dominated music industry.

Song,- Fast Car. Album: Tracy Chapman (1988)

In this song, Chapman sings from the perspective of a woman whose life isn’t working out as she hoped. She’s with a guy who’s unemployed, lazy and unsupportive – she works at the convenience store to pay the bills while he’s drinking at the bar.

In the chorus, we hear why she’s with him: Long ago, he made her feel like she belonged, and that they could have a fulfilling and exciting life together. Riding in his fast car, his arm around her shoulder, all was right.

Speaking with Q magazine, Chapman said: “It’s not really about a car at all… basically it’s about a relationship that doesn’t work out because it’s starting from the wrong place.”

This won the Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

When the then-unknown Tracy Chapman was booked to appear down the bill at the Nelson Mandela birthday concert at Wembley Stadium on June 11, 1988, little did she know her appearance would be the catalyst for a career breakthrough. After performing several songs from her self titled debut during the afternoon, Chapman thought she’d done her bit and could relax and enjoy the rest of the concert. However, later in the evening Stevie Wonder was delayed when the computer discs for his performance went missing, and Chapman was ushered back onto stage again. In front of a huge prime time audience she performed “Fast Car” alone with her acoustic guitar. Afterwards the song raced up the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,” Lilith Fair Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Twenty four years ago Sarah McLachlan and a rotating cast of fellow artists embarked on the women-centric traveling fest known as Lilith Fair. While the nostalgic view of the Nineties paints it as a decade where not just female-fronted, but female-populated acts surged on the pop and rock charts, Lilith’s presence bucked music industry norms that were still, quietly but firmly, directing radio playlists and tour routing. The venture was also a huge success, becoming the top-grossing festival of 1997.

Paula Cole is an American singer-songwriter. Her single “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” reached the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1997, and the following year she won a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Her song “I Don’t Want to Wait” was used as the theme song of the television show Dawson’s Creek.

Paula Cole performed at “Lilith Fair”

This Fire 1996

In the song “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone,” Paula Cole plays a woman who is swept off her feet by a rugged cowboy in a ’56 Chevy. She’s happy to be his housewife while he provides for the family, but after a while lethargy sets in and her cowboy is more of a bum, hanging out at the bar while she takes care of the household.

In an interview with Cole, she said: “It’s so many things woven together: wit, irony, humor, melancholy, and gender role examination. It’s all these things put together musically in this plaintive, American pop rock way.”

Cole is a staunch feminist and wrote this song with a sideways glance at gender stereotypes. The nuance of the song was lost on many listeners, who thought it was simply about a woman yearning for a manly man to take care of her.

“Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” was the breakout hit from Cole’s second album, which she wrote and produced herself after working with Kevin Killen on her 1994 debut, Harbinger. She wrote the song and demoed it with a rumba feel, but that didn’t fly. “Nobody paid any attention to it with a rumba feel, and that bothered me,” Cole told Songfacts. “For some reason the song was speaking to my unconscious and was saying, ‘Believe in me. Hey, I’m down here, I’m good.’ It bothered me enough that I re-demoed it with like a Ringo Starr reprise of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ On that album, Paul McCartney counts off at the last song, ‘One, two, three, four… [drum beat].’ That’s Ringo.

So, I sampled Ringo and looped it for just home demo purposes, not for the recording, and then I put on the catchy BVs [backing vocals] and added a bridge and suddenly everyone was really over the top about the song. And I knew going into This Fire that it was an important song and it was probably going to be my first single.

I loved the way “When Doves Cry” sounded, from Prince, and the lack of bass and how it sounded coming through a piece of s–t car stereo system all high end. It translated beautifully. I wanted it to translate to radio without bass muddying this particular song. I wanted crowd noise throughout the track to give it feel and ambience. I wanted the catchiness of the background vocals, and most of all I wanted humor and wit, like XTC of England, that wonderful British rock group. I was really in admiration of their wit and their humor and I thought, ‘What do I need to write with some wit and humor and irony.'”

Cole earned seven Grammy nominations in 1998, three specifically for this song: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. This Firewas up for Album of the Year and Best Pop Album, and Cole was also nominated for Best New Artist and Producer of the Year. “Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin won the Song and Record of the Year awards, and Bob Dylan got Album of the Year for Time Out Of Mind, but Cole won for Best New Artist, beating out Erykah Badu, Fiona Apple, Hanson and Puff Daddy.

At the ceremony, Cole performed part of the song (ending with some impressive beatboxing) in a whiparound segment where Colvin and Sarah McLachlan also sang their hits. Cole had never watched the Grammys before she was on it, and she didn’t bother to shave her armpits, which was noticeable in her acceptance speech. This became a talking point, which irked Cole as it shifted the story from her accomplishment to her appearance. “I hated the fashion statement element of pop,” she told Songfacts. “I had hairy armpits and they made such a big fuss about it. I was touring in Europe where they don’t even give a f–k about that. I came back and it was just weird.”

With her Producer of the Year nomination, Cole became the first woman nominated for the award on her own. The following year, Sheryl Crow and Lauryn Hill were up for the award.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,” Lilith Fair Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

She grew up in a rural Missouri town and graduated from the University of Missouri in 1984 with a degree in classical music. Her first job out of college was teaching music at an elementary school in St. Louis.

In 1986, she moved to Los Angeles, where she waited tables before landing a gig as a backup singer on Michael Jackson’s Bad tour. She was a backup singer on tours for George Harrison, Joe Cocker, and Rod Stewart before starting her solo career.

Her first album, Tuesday Night Music Club, wasn’t released until she was 31. She blames her late start on the music industry – in the late ’80s record companies were after dance singers like Madonna and Paula Abdul. Crow got her shot when female singer/songwriters came into vogue in the early ’90s with a mature sound that played well to an older audience.

She sang in jingles for McDonald’s. Her line was “It’s a good time for the great taste of McDonalds.”

Like the Dixie Chicks, she was very outspoken in her opposition to the Iraq War, but most of her fans were too. “It’s an egregious act to drag our country and other countries into a war that is based on greed and power mongering,” she said.

She gained a lot of exposure when she opened for The Eagles on their 1994 reunion tour. She was a backup singer on Don Henley’s album The End Of The Innocence.

In 1996 Kevin Gilbert, her former boyfriend and songwriting partner, died of autoerotic asphyxiation, a fetish where people cut off their air supply to get sexual pleasure. It is rumored that this is how Michael Hutchince from INXS died.

Crow is good friends with Stevie Nicks, and inducted Fleetwood Mac into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

In 2005, she and cycling legend Lance Armstrong announced their engagement. In early 2006, they called it off.

Her father was a trumpet player and her mother played piano and sang. Sheryl recalled to The Guardian: “My earliest, most vivid memories are of them coming home with their friends and playing records – Stan Getz, Stan Kenton, Ella Fitzgerald – and me and my sisters sleeping out on the stairs so we could hear them.”

She dated Eric Clapton for a while. He appeared on her album Sheryl Crow and Friends: Live From Central Park in 1999, around the time of their relationship.

Sheryl Crow performed in “Lilith Fair” 3 times.

She is the mother to two adopted sons. Wyatt Steven Crow was born on April 29, 2007 and Levi James Crow on April 30, 2010.

The first guitar that Crow ever brought was a 1964 Gibson Country and Western acoustic. She said in 2013: “Every song I’ve ever written that made me any money, I wrote on the same guitar. I call it The Moneymaker.”

Crow’s lawyer father defended civil rights and once prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan for ballot-rigging. He received death threats and had to sleep downstairs with a shotgun.

She posed for the UK version of the laddie magazine Maxim in 1999, and for it’s sister publication, Stuff, in America in 2002. Despite these revealing photo shoots, she took younger artists to task for using their sexuality to sell. “You’ve got a bunch of really young women out there who don’t really understand the importance of what they’re doing,” she told Independent Life in 2004. “They allow themselves to be exploited and they actually play that game and use sex to sell themselves. It undermines our credibility as artists.”

Sheryl Crow is an excellent baton twirler. She told Q Magazine: “If you were to go on YouTube they can see that I’ve twirled behind John Mayer on a couple of occasions. It was something I honed in high school and then incorporated into my act much later. Generally, as the end of tour prank, I’d go up and twirl while someone is singing their most sensitive song.”

You know who else is good with a baton? Crow’s friend Stevie Nicks, who twirls in the “Tusk” video.

Psychedelic Lunch

Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch Series,” Lilith Fair Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore music from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!

Lilith Fair was a concert tour and travelling music festival, founded by Canadian musician Sarah McLachlan, Nettwerk Music Group’s Dan Fraser and Terry McBride, and New York talent agent Marty Diamond. It took place during the summers of 1997 to 1999, and was revived in the summer of 2010. It consisted solely of female solo artists and female-led bands. In its initial three years, Lilith Fair raised over $10M for charity.

In 1996, Canadian Sarah McLachlan became frustrated with concert promoters and radio stations that refused to feature two female musicians in a row. Bucking conventional industry wisdom, she booked a successful tour for herself and Paula Cole. At least one of their appearances together — in McLachlan’s home town, on September 14, 1996 — went by the name “Lilith Fair” and included performances by McLachlan, Cole, Lisa Loeb and Michelle McAdorey, formerly of Crash Vegas. 

The next year, McLachlan founded the Lilith Fair tour, taking Lilith from the medieval Jewish legend that Lilith was Adam’s first wife.

McLachlan studied classical piano, guitar and voice, before being discovered in 1985 by Nettwerk Records. She was 19 and fronting the band October Game at the time.

Her first album Touch, released in 1988, went Gold in her native Canada, but she did not gain widespread US popularity until the 1993 release of the album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, fueled by the hit singles “Hold On,” “Possession,” and “Good Enough.”

She is adopted, which she learned around age 9. Her birth mother was a 19-year-old artist whom McLachlan later met. Sarah is very grateful to her adoptive parents and always felt like she belonged.

McLachlan said during a Reddit AMA that she doesn’t adhere to any particular religion. She explained: “I view the concept of God as an energy that we all are part of and share. If I had any spiritual leanings, it would be towards Buddhism. But again, I follow my own path most of my life.”

Asked whether she usually writes the melody or lyrics first, McLachlan replied:

“I almost always write melody first but often a few words creep in and then, if they feel strong, I will try and look deeper into why I said that and where could I go with that… it’s a discovery, searching, looking under rocks etc.”

Her music had a profound effect on the rapper DMC of Run-DMC, who was going through a severe depression when he immersed himself in her music. The pair later collaborated on the song “Just Like Me,” where DMC raps about his upbringing – like McLachlan, he was also adopted.

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