Wal-Mart Stores Inc., America’s largest retailer, has stunned the music industry by banning an upcoming album by Grammy winner Sheryl Crow from its stores because of a song lyric suggesting that the retailer sells guns to children.
Wal-Mart’s decision, which record industry executives estimate could cost Crow a staggering 400,000 album sales, comes two weeks before the album, “Sheryl Crow,” is to be released by A&M; Records on Sept. 24.
Stores such as Wal-Mart frequently refuse to sell albums containing lyrics they believe are too sexually explicit or excessively violent. But this is apparently the first time a major retailer has banned a song in which it is the target of a lyric.
“Selling a record implying behavior that is against all we stand for is something we just could not profit from,” said Wal-Mart spokesman Dale Ingram.
What also makes the dispute unusual is that the 34-year-old Crow is hardly the kind of artist one expects to find at the forefront of a music censorship issue. Her upcoming album is Crow’s much-anticipated follow-up to her best-selling “Tuesday Night Music Club,” whose “All I Wanna Do” single in 1995 won her Grammy awards for best pop vocal performance and record of the year.
The lyrics at issue are in a song called “Love is a Good Thing,” co-written with Tad Wadhams. The lyrics read:
“Watch out sister,
watch out brother,
Watch our children as they kill each other
with a gun they bought at the Wal-Mart discount stores.”
Ingram characterized the lyrics as an unfair attack on the Bentonville, Ark.-based chain, which he said has strict policies prohibiting the sale of guns to minors. He said the company believes the song insults Wal-Mart employees, many of whom are involved in charities for children.