Thursday, January 22, 2009

True Hollywood story indeed

Shortly before my brother John committed suicide, a relatively unknown singer named Sheryl Crow hit the charts with a song called "Leaving Las Vegas."

The connection between John and the song was through David Baerwald, who knew John and was familiar with his novel Leaving Las Vegas. Baerwald had asked John about the title and John agreed that Baerwald and his Tuesday Music Club could use it as long as John got credit somewhere down the line (John's name never appeared in conjunction with the song, but make no mistake, the title for the song was born of the title of the novel).

Then on David Letterman one night, Crow was a guest and announced that the song was autobiographical. My brother was furious.

All sorts of rumors swirled around the story, most of them false. I'll clarify one and say that this fiasco was by no means the reason John committed suicide.

E! True Hollywood Story contacted me a few weeks ago about images of John, apparently for the Sheryl Crow THS premiere at 9 p.m. EST tomorrow night. I'll be interested to see how they handle it. It's never really been covered before, save for a story in the November 14, 1996 Rolling Stone, the cover story for which was on Sheryl Crow. Dad and I were both interviewed for it.

And now for a tidbit: My dad's meticulous notes regarding John's life indicate that A&M Records purchased some 470 copies of Leaving Las Vegas in 1993 in order to promote the Sheryl Crow song. Hm.

For those interested in more of John's story, here is a post that is chock full of links about John and my family.


Rory L. Aronsky said...

And now for a tidbit: My dad's meticulous notes regarding John's life indicate that A&M Records purchased some 470 copies of Leaving Las Vegas in 1993 in order to promote the Sheryl Crow song. Hm.

Never mind that the Sheryl Crow song indicated that the subject would likely leave the Strip alive.

Talk about clueless on their part.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Addendum: Leaving Las Vegas (the novel, of course) is one of the most cherished books in my collection. A rawness like that could never be duplicated today.

Al The Retired Army Guy said...

The bass player in Cheryl's band looks like he's about ready to take a dump the few times they focus on him. Just sayin' ... BTW, I think he's playing a '62 Reissue Fender Jazz Bass. He's definitely using an Ampeg SVT amp with an 8X10 cabinet (also known as "the refrigerator")

And I can't blame John for being royally pissed. I would have been too.

I'll try to view the THS thing tomorrow, or at least I'll tape it via the DVR.


DogsDontPurr said...

This brings to mind a quote that I often apply to all sorts of situations: "So close...yet so far away."


Mone said...

I used to dig that song back then, but thats a bummer. I'm going to get myself the novel now! Have a nice weekend.

glittergirl said...

i saw the performance on letterman that night. i'd heard the song on the radio a few times and assumed it was written with the novel (that i had so loved) in mind.

when crow announced that the song was autobiographical, i jumped off off the couch and yelled "bullsh*it!"

i spent a lot of time during the early years of sheryl crow "mania" explaining to people that she was a bit slimey for having lied about the song.

i am curious to see how THS handles this. i hope they don't screw it up....

Haik Bedrosian said...

Jesus. Your brother killed himself? I'm so sorry Erin.

Bill the wrenchbender said...

Wow, that seriously screwed up, I always kinda liked her, now, not so much.

Anonymous said...

It's not the first time she's been accused of ripping people off with songs. People she played with early on accused her of just that thing, ripping off their stuff. She countered with something to the effect of --they're just jealous cuz I got famous rather than being happy for me. I wonder if THS will broach that subject...

Zen Wizard said...

I listened to the song HERE.

It's alright--the point I guess is that there is a lot of fluff in the lyrics like, "sometimes I stopped in Barstow" or whatever, and if he said he was going to refer to the novel, the songwriter could have easily put, "Just like in the novel" or something like that in there.

But what the heck do I know...

Kirk Jusko said...

I just now googled the lyrics for "Leaving Las Vegas", and guess what? It's now a ringtone! I don't know how you feel about that, but maybe it's better if your brother's best remembered just for the book and the movie.

Incidentally, as I was perusing the "chock full of links" I saw something nasty John Stark Bellamy II wrote about your brother.

If you're at all familiar with the kind of books Bellamy writes, then I think you'll agree that the Collinwood school fire, the East Ohio Gas explosion, the disappearance of Beverly Potts, and the murder of Dr Sam Shepard's wife was just dandy for Bellamy's career, and he didn't even to lift a finger!

nadina said...

in the end the truth always comes out

Stef said...

I always wondered if the song was connected to the book or movie in some way.

Now that I know, I'll add Sheryl Crow to my shit list.

I'll be interested to hear how it turns out too.

Geoff Schutt said...

As I recall from a different article focusing on John and his work in Rolling Stone, David Baerwald (formerly of the very cool '80s musical group "David and David") was pissed off at Sheryl Crow about this whole incident, and never forgave her, but also, did not reveal everything about the "behind the scenes."

Did we talk about this in my interview with you for "This Side of Paradise," Erin? Did David Baerwald ever give you any inside information -- his feelings at least?

This is one those stories that has become the stuff of legend over the years. Maybe someday Sheryl Crow will make it right.

Erin O'Brien said...

I do know Bellamy's books, Kirk.

I don't think I ever talked to Baerwald, Geoff.

I thought they did a pretty good job last night. I am glad to get the story out on a high-profile public venue.

So so so sad.

If anyone has a recording of the thing, email me please. My mom missed the part of the show when they really focused on the John.