Melissa Lou Etheridge (born May 29, 1961 in Leavenworth, Kansas) is an American rock singer-songwriter and musician.
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 10 February 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.
Melissa Etheridge 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, 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 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. 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.