Sheryl Crow Gets Her Political, Rock & Roll Swagger Back – ‘Shine Over Babylon’

Sheryl Crow.

For her 52nd birthday, here’s precisely the sort of Sheryl Crow song I wish more people knew. I saw a recent interview where she said she wanted to be remembered for music that mattered so with that in mind, have a close listen to Shine Over Babylon.

From her excellent 2007 LP Detours, The song has an Exile On Main Street swagger as well as some of Crow’s most poetic, political and pointed lyrics:

I walked the heat of seven hills
Endless talk of losing wills
Great highways in a constant melt
Men and women and children all have overbuilt
Buying bread and paying for none
Creatures of a waning sun
Teacher’s hands are overrun
Clowns and gypsies all but gone
(You make me wanna)
Shine over Babylon
(You make me wanna)
Shine over Babylon
Freedoms etched on Sacred pillars
Hollow stones of mindless filler
Can lead to madman oil drillers
Won’t be long before we all are killers
Little boy lost way up the mountains
Cities drowning under boiling fountains
I dreamed of chilly, sunlit days
I was trembling in a golden haze
We celebrate the golden cow
Praise the bloated bank account
If there’s a God where is he now
The precipice is slipping further out
Sanskrit message from the mounts
Leave your possession, hope abounds
There’s nothing here for you to cry about
We’re all just followers from here on out
I take the stage, I walk the planks
I sing these songs with little thanks
I wait for shouts from crazy cranks
I stand amidst the brown shirt ranks
I found my way to Alexandria
Where gurus bubble up on ganga
Scavengers, they run up and hand ya
All the junk that should have damned ya
If everything in life was free
You’d float in your own reverie
The things that you could never see
Seal the gap between you and me
[Chorus: x2]

Reading various fan takes on the meaning of the lyrics, the song is most likely a kind of apocalyptic critique on a money-obsessed, morally wayward government and society. That this obsession can cloud our judgement even on matters as serious as the health of the planet is apparent in the words.

With Sheryl writing Shine Over Babylon during the tail-end of the Bush years, the song and album it’s from (Detours) contained several references to the failings of that administration (God Bless This Mess, Love Is Free, Gasoline etc). And while not as big a seller as Bruce Springsteen’s Magic from the same year, both stand as two of the sharpest political-themed albums of recent times. Crucially, the music on Detours and Magic matched the lyrical standard.

Sheryl and I, 2008.

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