Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge
MelissaEtheridgeHWOFSept2011.jpg
Etheridge at a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2011
Background information
Birth nameMelissa Lou Etheridge
Born(1961-05-29) May 29, 1961 (age 56)
Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S.
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • activist
Instruments
Years active1985–present
Labels
Websitewww.MelissaEtheridge.com

Melissa Lou Etheridge (born May 29, 1961) is an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and activist.[5] Her self-titled debut album Melissa Etheridge was released in 1988 and became an underground success. The album peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200, and its lead single, "Bring Me Some Water", garnered Etheridge her first Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. In 1993, Etheridge won her first Grammy award for her single "Ain't It Heavy" from her third album, Never Enough. Later that year, she released what would become her mainstream breakthrough album, Yes I Am. Its tracks "I'm the Only One" and "Come to My Window" both reached the top 30 in the United States, and the latter earned Etheridge her second Grammy award. Yes I Am peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200, and spent 138 weeks on the chart,[6] earning a RIAA certification of 6x Platinum,[7] her largest to date.

In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer, and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. 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".[8] Etheridge's performance was widely lauded, with India.Arie writing "I Am Not My Hair" about Etheridge.[9] Later that year, Etheridge released her first compilation album, Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled. The album was a success, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard 200, and going Gold almost immediately.[7] Her latest studio album is Memphis Rock and Soul.

Etheridge is known for her mixture of "confessional lyrics, pop-based folk-rock, and raspy, smoky vocals."[3] She has also been a gay and lesbian activist since her public coming out in January 1993.[10] She has received fifteen Grammy Award nominations throughout her career, winning two, in 1993 and 1995. In 2007, she won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for "I Need to Wake Up" from the film An Inconvenient Truth. In September 2011, Etheridge received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[11]

Early life and career

Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, the younger of two girls of Elizabeth (Williamson), a computer consultant, and John Etheridge, an American Constitution teacher at Leavenworth High School. Her father was a high school psychology teacher, counselor and athletic director at her alma mater, Leavenworth High School. He died in August 1991. Her mother was a homemaker and a computer analyst and is now retired. She attended David Brewer School, which is still located at 17th and Osage Streets. She graduated in 1979 from Leavenworth High School (LHS) at 10th Avenue and Halderman. Etheridge was a member of the first "Power and Life" musical/dance group at LHS. Her childhood home was at 1902 Miami Street.

Etheridge's interest in music began early; she picked up her first guitar at 8. She began to play in all-men country music groups throughout her teenage years, until she moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music.

While at Berklee, Etheridge played the club circuit around Boston. After three semesters, Etheridge decided to drop out of Berklee and head to Los Angeles to attempt a career in music.[3] Etheridge was discovered in a bar called Vermie's in Pasadena, CA. She had made some friends on a women's soccer team and those new friends came to see her play. One of the women was Karla Leopold, whose husband, Bill Leopold, was a manager in the music business. Karla convinced Bill to see her perform live. He was impressed, and has remained a pivotal part of Etheridge's career ever since.[12] This, in addition to her gigs in lesbian bars around Los Angeles, led to her discovery by Island Records chief Chris Blackwell. She received a publishing deal to write songs for movies including the 1986 movie Weeds.[13]

In 1985, prior to her signing, 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.