It took big stage presence and an even bigger voice for a 24 year old backup singer to trade lines with Michael Jackson at the height of the Gloved One’s solo career, yet that’s just what Sheryl Crow did as she began making a national name for herself.

The former schoolteacher, who had grown up just north of Memphis and been a Tiger at Mizzou in Columbia, had played in local bands, but Jackson’s Bad tour was the first time the doe-eyed singer performed at a national level. Crow parlayed her presence on the tour into singing backup during recording sessions for some of the industry’s biggest names while writing for others.

Hugh Padgham, perhaps best known as the slick genius behind Phil Collins’ biggest solo hits, went into the studio in the early 1990s to record with Crow, but the album was never released. Instead, Crow released Tuesday Night Music Club, made with the help of friends she had acquired through her many projects, in 1993.

Tuesday Night streaked up the Billboard charts, settling in at #3 on the mainstream album charts. The album, fueled by massive hits All I Wanna Do and Leaving Las Vegas, won Crow two Grammy Awards, including the coveted Record of the Year for All I Wanna Do.

Her follow-up, the eponymous Sheryl Crow, charted three big singles and won another two Grammys, firmly establishing Crow as one of rock’s top female solo acts along with Melissa Etheridge and Sarah McLachlan. A stint on the Lillith Fair tour and two live/greatest hits albums followed as did 2002’s C’mon C’mon, which added more Grammy hardware to the Crow household and another string of hits.

Since then, the singer has become engaged to cycling superstar Lance Armstrong and spent 2005 polishing her first studio album in three years. A well documented bout with breast cancer left a reportedly recovered Crow on tour with John Mayer in 2006.

–G. Bounacos