Sheryl Crow believes in the transformative power of music, and today’s release of a duet with the late Johnny Cash, “Redemption Day,” is a clear indication the world does too. “This song has had a lot of different lives,” says Crow of the track that originally appeared on her Grammy-winning, triple platinum album Sheryl Crow in 1996. “It’s led me to some strange and interesting opportunities.” Today marks one of those times as a re-recorded version leads her forthcoming album on The Valory Music Co., slated for late summer.
Crow wrote “Redemption Day” in 1996 after a visit to Bosnia with then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. “I’d never been anywhere even close to a war-torn area,” she says. “We visited different military bases, played for the troops, and met with families.” But when she returned home, the news was covering the ongoing genocide in Rwanda.
In 2003, Crow sang at June Carter Cash’s funeral, and soon after, received a call from one of Johnny Cash’s sons-in-law, who said that he had played “Redemption Day” for Cash and that the Man in Black wanted to talk to her. “He asked a lot of questions about different lines and what I meant,” says Crow. “He didn’t want to put his voice to the song without being able to believe it heart and soul.”
Cash recorded the song and told Crow that he felt it was the cornerstone of his next album, but his version wasn’t released until 2010’s American VI: Ain’t No Grave album. While on tour in 2014 Crow performed “Redemption Day” as a duet with Cash’s recording, projecting his image onstage—which inspired her to approach his estate with the idea of re-recording the song, adding Cash’s voice to a new arrangement, for her new project.
The video for “Redemption Day,” directed by Sean Silva, incorporates footage of Cash next to scenes of a young child watching history unfold, in all of its tragedy and triumph. “As a mom of two young kids,” says Crow, “I see that our kids watch what we do on their behalf and how we shape their future. They’re privy to everything visual, especially now, and there’s no way to shield your child from the roughness of reality. If we could see the world through a child’s eyes, we would make different decisions.”
Incorporating Johnny Cash into this project—alongside songs with other friends from Keith Richards to Stevie Nicks to St. Vincent—means more to Sheryl Crow than just the sound and memory of one of America’s greatest icons. “With what’s happening in our nation now, and how dire things look, to have Johnny’s voice offers some hope,” she says. “Knowing how he felt about the song, I feel pretty certain that he would have some wisdom to impart about what’s happening now and who we are becoming. I hope that wherever he is, he feels proud to be a part of it—I certainly feel his presence in the song.”
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