Sheryl Crow’s Hit Song, “All I Wanna Do,” Gives Poet Wyn Cooper his 15 Minutes
By Andrew Goutman
(March 30, 2014) You must remember that great song from 1994…that Sheryl Crow ditty that won her two Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. The song starts off with a two-note guitar riff, with Sheryl voicing the words,
This ain’t no disco,
and it ain’t no country club either.
This is LA.
In January 1993, Crow, along with her musicians and producers, were in a recording studio in LA, laying down tracks for what would be her first major release, Tuesday Night Music Club. Crow explained, “We were jamming in the studio, and I picked up this poem in a book – the first line was “All I wanna do is have some fun.” It encapsulated what was going on in LA, a real extreme feeling of apathy and defeat. [But] it’s masked by this light pop ditty…”
The poem Crow was referring to was from a book titled The Country of Here Below by a one Wyn Cooper. Cooper’s poems appeared in numerous anthologies of contemporary poetry, and he was an editor of various quarterly volumes. Cooper explained his serendipitous reversal of fortune:
I wrote a poem which I called “Fun.” I sent it to many magazines for publication with no luck…Bill Bottrell and Kevin Gilbert, Sheryl Crow’s producer and keyboard player, took a break from recording…for want of better lyrics to a tune they already had in mind. They went around the corner to Cliff’s Books in Pasadena, where they found a used copy of my book. They liked the poems…and took it back to Sheryl, and asked her to sing “Fun” to the music.
The poem and the lyrics to “All I Wanna Do” are almost identical (Crow’s lyrics are here.) Since the poem wasn’t about any particular place, Crow and her staff embodied their reference to LA by way of a memorable chorus that ended with, “Until the sun comes up over Santa Monica Boulevard.”
Here is a live performance by krlo on August 15, 2016, courtesy of YouTube:
The entire Wyn Cooper poem, “Fun,” can be found here. Here is the one verse that’s very different from the song’s lyrics:
A happy couple enters the bar, dangerously close
to one another, like this is a motel,
But they clean up their act when we give them
A look. One quick beer and they’re out,
Down the road and in the next state
For all I care smiling like idiots.
We cover sports and politics and once,
When Billy burns his thumb and lets out a yelp,
The bartender looks up from his want ads.
Cooper received song-writing credit, and collects royalty checks for his artistry. I couldn’t find out how much, but I’m thinking the amount exceeds his compensation for organizing the Literary Festival in Brattleboro, Vermont.