Melissa Lou Etheridge (born May 29, 1961 in Leavenworth, Kansas) is an American rock musician.
Etheridge has produced eight albums since signing her first major recording contract in 1987. Three of them have gone multi-platinum: Melissa Etheridge (1988), Yes I Am (1993) and Your Little Secret (1996). Two others went platinum and another gold.
She has won the Grammy award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance twice in her career, for the song “Ain’t It Heavy” in 1992 and “Come to My Window”, in 1994.
She is a Bruce Springsteen fan, and she has covered his song “Thunder Road” during live shows.
Etheridge is also famous as a gay rights activist, having publicly come out as a lesbian during President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in January 1993. She had a long-term partnership with Julie Cypher, with whom she had two children via a sperm donor, David Crosby. However, in 2000, Cypher began to reconsider her sexuality, and on September 19, 2000, they announced they were separating. In 2001, Etheridge documented this and other experiences in her memoir The Truth Is… My Life in Love and Music. In it, she 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.
After splitting from Cypher she went on in 2003 to marry actress Tammy Lynn Michaels.
Though limited in acting experience it has been announced that a sitcom is in production to star Etheridge as a lesbian living with her heterosexual male best friend (together raising a third person’s child.) Critics have predicted that it will be “like Will & Grace except cancelled.”
In October 2004 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but is expected to make a full recovery. At the 2005 Grammy Awards, she made a return to the stage and, although bald from chemotherapy, performed in tribute to Janis Joplin with Joss Stone. Etheridge was praised for her performance, which was considered one of the highlights of the show.
In August 2005 announced that she & Tammy Lynn Michaels are considering having a child together.
On Saturday, September 10, 2005, Melissa participated in ReAct Now: Music & Relief, a telethon in support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, MTV, VH1, and CMT. ReAct Now: Music & Relief, part of an ongoing effort by MTV, VH1, CMT, will seek to raise funds for the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, America’s Second Harvest. Melissa 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.
In October 2005, she appeared on Dateline NBC with Tammy Lynn Michaels to discuss her struggle with cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Melissa’s hair had grown back by the time of this appearance and was short and sandy-blonde. She said that her partner had been very supportive during her illness.
Melissa Etheridge used medicinal marijuana to help ease the pain and symptoms of chemotherapy during her treatment for breast cancer last year. According to the Associated Press, she opted to smoke the controversial drug every day instead of going on five or six different prescriptions. The singer said doctors supported the use of marijuana, saying it yields the best effects when undergoing chemotherapy.
Marijuana is allowed in California and nine other states with a doctor’s recommendation, but is banned under federal law. The 44-year-old Etheridge was diagnosed with the disease more than a year ago and is now cancer-free.
She recently released a greatest hits album called The Road Less Traveled.
Also out now is a charity single, titled “I Run for Life,” which is dedicated to the fight against breast cancer.