Melissa Etheridge Biography
Early life and career
Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. She attended David Brewer School which is still located at 17th and Osage Streets. She graduated in 1979 from Leavenworth High School (LHS), 10th Avenue and Halderman. Melissa was a member of the first "Power and Life" musical/dance group at LHS which is still active today. Melissa's childhood home was at 1902 Miami Street. Melissa's father, John, was a teacher, counselor and athletic director at LHS. She attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for three semesters in 1979 and 1980 and was friends with fellow student Lauren Passarelli, now a guitar professor at Berklee. While in Boston as a student, Etheridge performed at many local establishments including Ken's By George. In 1982 Etheridge moved from Leavenworth to Los Angeles, California, to break into the music business. She got some small gigs performing at The Candy Store on the Sunset Strip, as well as at least four lesbian or mixed bars: Robbie's, the Executive Suite and the Que Sera Sera in Long Beach and Vermie's in Pasadena. Some of her early fans from Vermie's gave her demo tape to Bill Leopold, a friend's husband who worked in the music business. Etheridge auditioned for Leopold, who was so impressed that he offered to represent her on the spot.
As Etheridge continued performing in lesbian bars in Los Angeles, Leopold arranged for music executives to come see her play. Eventually, she caught the attention of A&M Records, who hired her as a staff songwriter. For two years, Etheridge wrote music for A&M and many of her songs were recorded by mainstream artists. In 1985, Etheridge sent her demo to Olivia Records, a lesbian record label, but was ultimately rejected. She saved the rejection letter, signed by "the women of Olivia", which was later featured in Intimate Portrait: Melissa Etheridge, the Lifetime Television documentary of her life.
In 1986, Etheridge was signed by Island Records, but her first album was rejected by the label as being too polished and glossy. Given four days in the studio to re-record, she cut ten tracks which were released as her eponymous debut album.
Etheridge has released ten albums in her career. Three of them have gone multi-platinum: Melissa Etheridge (1988), Yes I Am (1993) and Your Little Secret (1995). Two others went platinum and two more gold.
Etheridge is a Bruce Springsteen fan, and she has covered his songs "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" during live shows. She is also a fan of the Dave Matthews Band and has expressed interest in collaborating with them.
In 1992 Melissa established a performing arts scholarship at LHS in honor of her father. Melissa said her father used to "spend his weekends driving me to Kansas City and all points around there so I could play in bands. I was underage so I couldn't have gone without him."
In a visit to Leavenworth in November 1994, she performed a benefit concert for a new park to be built near the high school. A ball field at the park will be named after her father. While she was here, she also donated money to help refurbish the Performing Arts Center in Leavenworth at 401 Delaware.
In 1994, Etheridge played a cover version of "Burning Love" live in Memphis, during the "It's Now Or Never, The Tribute To Elvis".
In 1997 she appeared on the sitcom Ellen.
In October 2004, Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the 2005 Grammy Awards, she made a return to the stage and, although bald from chemotherapy, performed a tribute to Janis Joplin with the song "Piece of My Heart". Etheridge was praised for her performance, which was considered one of the highlights of the show. Etheridge's bravery was lauded in song in India.Arie's "I Am Not My Hair."
On September 10, 2005, Etheridge participated in ReAct Now: Music & Relief, a telethon in support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. ReAct Now, part of an ongoing effort by MTV, VH1, CMT, seeks to raise funds for the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and America's Second Harvest. Etheridge introduced a new song specially written for the occasion called "Four Days". The a cappella song included themes and images that were on the news during the aftermath of the hurricane. Other charities she supports include The Dream Foundation and Love Our Children USA.
On November 15, 2005, Etheridge appeared on the Tonight Show to perform her song "I Run for Life", which references her own fight with breast cancer and her determination to overcome it, and seeks to encourage other breast cancer survivors and their families. After her performance Jay Leno told her, "Thanks for being a fighter, kiddo".
Etheridge wrote the song "I Need to Wake Up" for the film documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006. The song was released only on the enhanced version of her greatest hits album, The Road Less Traveled.
Etheridge was also a judge for the 5th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.
On July 7, 2007, Etheridge performed at the Giants Stadium on the American leg of Live Earth. Etheridge performed the songs "Imagine That" and "What Happens Tomorrow" from The Awakening, her tenth album, released on September 25, 2007, as well as the song "I Need To Wake Up" before introducing Al Gore. On December 11, 2007 she performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, together with a variety of artists, which was broadcast live to over 100 countries. In addition, she performed at the U.S. 2008 Democratic National Convention on August 27, 2008. In July 2009, Etheridge announced through her website that she and John Shanks will begin recording her 11th studio album this summer. This is the first time since 1999 Etheridge and Shanks were the only ones involved in the production of a project. More details are to be released later in the year.
Etheridge will be featured in UniGlobe Entertainment's breast cancer docudrama titled 1 a Minute scheduled for release in 2010. The documentary is being made by actress Namrata Singh Gujral and will also feature breast cancer suriviors Olivia Newton-John, Diahann Carroll, Namrata Singh Gujral, Mumtaz and Jaclyn Smith as well as William Baldwin, Daniel Baldwin and Priya Dutt. The feature is narrated by Kelly McGillis. The film will also star Barbara Mori, Lisa Ray, Deepak Chopra and Morgan Brittany.
Etheridge also held a private listening party hosted at Michele Clark's Sunset Sessions 2010. She debuted her new album Fearless Love at the event held at the Rancho Bernardo Inn where she did a question and answer and played an acoustic set of her new singles in front of convention attendees and about 50 listeners of host station KPRI/SAN DIEGO.
Etheridge performed her title track "Fearless Love" from her new album and "Come to My Window" from 1993 on the airing of April 27, 2010's "Dancing With the Stars" on ABC.Personal life
Etheridge's father, John Etheridge, was a high school psychology teacher, counselor and athletic director at her alma mater, Leavenworth High School. He died in 1993. Her mother Elizabeth, was a homemaker and a computer analyst and is now retired.
Etheridge is famous as a gay rights activist, having come out publicly as a lesbian in January 1993 at the Triangle Ball, a gay/lesbian celebration of President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. She is also a committed advocate for environmental issues and in 2006, she toured the US and Canada using biodiesel.
Etheridge had a long-term partnership with Julie Cypher, and their relationship occasionally received press coverage. During this partnership, Cypher gave birth to two children, Bailey Jean, born February 10, 1997, and Beckett, born November 1998, fathered by sperm donor David Crosby.
In 2000, Cypher began to reconsider her sexuality and on September 19, 2000, Etheridge and Cypher announced they were separating. In 2001, Etheridge documented her breakup with Cypher and other experiences in her memoir The Truth Is... My Life in Love and Music. In the book, Etheridge recounts that she was molested by her sister, Jennifer, over five years as a child, and mentions an alleged affair Cypher had with k.d. lang.
In April 2003, Etheridge became engaged to actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. The two married in Malibu, CA on September 20, 2003. Their wedding was featured on ABC's InStyle Celebrity Weddings.
In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy.
In October 2005, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Etheridge appeared on Dateline NBC with Michaels to discuss her struggle with cancer. By the time of the interview, Etheridge's hair had grown back after being lost during chemotherapy. She said that her partner had been very supportive during her illness. Etheridge also discussed using medicinal marijuana while she was receiving the chemotherapy. She said that the drug improved her mood and increased her appetite. Chemotherapy patients often have difficulty eating because of severe nausea.
In April 2006, Etheridge and Michaels announced that Michaels was pregnant with twins via an anonymous sperm donor. Michaels gave birth to a son, Miller Steven, and a daughter, Johnnie Rose, on October 17, 2006.
In October 2008, five months after the Supreme Court of California overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, Etheridge announced that she and Michaels are planning to marry but are currently "trying to find the right time... to go down and do it".
In November 2008, in response to the passing of California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, Etheridge announced that she would not pay her state taxes as an act of civil disobedience.
Etheridge supported Barack Obama's decision to have conservative Christian and gay marriage opponent Rick Warren speak at the 2009 Presidential inauguration, believing that he can sponsor dialogue to bridge the gap between gay and straight Christians. She stated in her column at The Huffington Post that "Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket. But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen."
In a June 15, 2009 interview with Anderson Cooper, Etheridge admitted that she still uses marijuana to lessen the effects of acid reflux or in extremely stressful situations. Medical marijuana is legal in the state of California.
On April 15, 2010 Etheridge and wife Tammy Lynn Michaels announced they have separated.
April 27, 2010 Fearless Love released on Island Records - Amazon's Deal of the Day for $3.99 (limited time only)
At the 20th Annual Juno Awards in 1990, Etheridge won International Entertainer of the Year.
Etheridge has won the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance twice in her career, for the songs "Ain't It Heavy" in 1992, and "Come to My Window" in 1994.
In 1996 she was awarded ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year Award.
In 2001, she won the Gibson Guitar Award for Best Rock Guitarist: Female.
In 2006, at the 17th GLAAD Media Awards, Etheridge received GLAAD's Stephen F. Kolzak Award, honoring openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equal rights. In addition, she was awarded as Outstanding Music Artist for Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled.
On February 25, 2007, Etheridge received the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "I Need to Wake Up", the theme song to the Al Gore-moderated, Academy Award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The award was presented by Queen Latifah and John Travolta.
On February 18, 2009, Etheridge was named the "Celebrity Marshall" for Boston's 2009 Pride Parade, by the Boston Pride Committee.