Melissa Etheridge


Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge

Etheridge at a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in September 2011
Background information
Birth name Melissa Lou Etheridge
Born May 29, 1961 (1961-05-29) (age 50)
Origin Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S.
Genres Heartland Rock[1], Folk Rock, Blues Rock
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician, activist
Instruments Vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica, mandolin
Years active 1988–present
Labels Island Records
Website MelissaEtheridge.com

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

Etheridge is known for her mixture of confessional lyrics, pop-based folk-rock, and raspy, smoky vocals.[1] She has also been an iconic gay and lesbian activist since her public coming out in January 1993.[2]

Contents

Life and career

1961–86: Early life and career

Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas, the younger of two girls, to John Etheridge, a psychology teacher at Leavenworth High School, and Elizabeth Williamson, a computer consultant. 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. Etheridge was a member of the first "Power and Life" musical/dance group at LHS which is still active today. Her childhood home was at 1902 Miami Street.

Etheridge's interest in music began early; she picked up 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 in 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.[1] 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.[3] This, in addition to her gigs in lesbian bars around Los Angeles, got her discovered by Island Records chief Chris Blackwell. She got a publishing deal to write songs for movies including the 1986 movie Weeds.[4]

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.

After an unreleased first effort that was rejected by Island Records as being too polished and glossy, she completed her stripped down self-titled debut in just four days. Her eponymous debut album Melissa Etheridge was an underground hit, and the single, "Bring Me Some Water", a turntable hit, was nominated for a Grammy.[4]

At the time of the album's release, it was not generally known that Etheridge was a lesbian. While on the road promoting the album, she paused in Memphis, Tennessee, to be interviewed for the radio syndication, Pulsebeat—Voice of the Heartland, explaining the intensity of her music by saying: "People think I'm really sad--or really angry. But my songs are written about the conflicts I have . . . I have no anger toward anyone else."[5] She invited the radio syndication producer to attend her concert that night. He did and was surprised to find himself one of the few males in attendance.[6]

1986–92: Road to rock stardom

Etheridge followed up her first album's modest success by contributing background vocals to Don Henley's album The End of the Innocence. She went into the studio and recorded her sophomore effort Brave and Crazy which was released in 1989.

Brave and Crazy followed the same musical formula as her eponymous debut garnering a Grammy nomination. The album peaked at #22 on the Billboard charts (equal to her first album). Etheridge then went on the road, taking a page from one of her musical influences Bruce Springsteen, and built a loyal fan base.[7] Etheridge is a Bruce Springsteen fan, and she has covered his songs "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" during live shows.

In 1992, Etheridge released her third album Never Enough. Similar to her prior two albums, Never Enough didn't reach the top of the charts peaking at #21 but gave Etheridge her first Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for her single "Ain't It Heavy". Never Enough was considered a more personal and mature album from Etheridge at that time. With rumors circulating around her sexuality (Etheridge was not out yet at this point), the album seemed to inadvertently address these rumors.[1]

In 1992, Etheridge established a performing arts scholarship at Leavenworth High School in honor of her father. She 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."

1993: Yes I Am

On September 21, 1993, Etheridge released what would become her mainstream breakthrough recording Yes I Am. Co-produced with former The Police and Genesis Grammy-winning and Producer of the Year award-winning producer Hugh Padgham, Yes I Am spent 138 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts and peaked at #15 and scored mainstream hits "Come to My Window" and her only Billboard Top 10 single "I'm the Only One", which also hit #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. Sales-wise, Yes I Am earned a RIAA certification of 6× Platinum[8] making it her biggest selling album to date.

Etheridge earned her second Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for her single "Come to My Window". She also garnered two additional nominations in the Best Rock Song category for "I'm the Only One" and "Come to My Window" losing to Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia".

In 1993, Etheridge boycotted playing shows in Colorado over its passage of Amendment 2.[7]

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".

1995–2002: After her breakthrough

The success of Yes I Am helped increase sales of Etheridge's earlier albums. In 1995 Melissa Etheridge earned a RIAA certification of 2× Platinum[8] while Never Enough earned a RIAA certification of Platinum[8]

Etheridge's follow-up to Yes I Am was the moderately successful Your Little Secret which wasn't as well received by critics as prior recordings. Your Little Secret is the highest charting album of Etheridge's career reaching #6 on the Billboard album charts, but only spent 41 weeks on the chart. The album produced two Top 40 singles "I Want to Come Over" (Billboard #22) and "Nowhere to Go" (Billboard #40) and earned a RIAA certification of 2× Platinum,[8] less than "Yes I Am."

In 1996, Etheridge won ASCAP Songwriter of the Year award. She also took a lengthy break from the music business to concentrate on her domestic arrangements.[4] She also recorded "Sin Tener A Donde Ir (Nowhere to Go)" for the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte: Red Hot + Latin produced by the Red Hot Organization.

In 1997, she appeared as herself on the sitcom Ellen on "The Puppy Episode Part 2".

Etheridge returned to the music charts with the release of Breakdown in October 1999. Breakdown peaked at #12 on the Billboard charts and spent 18 weeks in the charts. Despite this, Breakdown was the only album of Etheridge's career to be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album (losing to Santana's Supernatural). In addition, her single "Angels Would Fall" was nominated in two categories: Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (losing to Sheryl Crow) and Best Rock Song (losing to Red Hot Chili Peppers) in 2000. A year later, another single from the album "Enough of Me" was nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (also losing to Sheryl Crow).

The album earned a RIAA certification of Gold,[8] below her prior 5 albums.

2001 saw the release of Skin an album she described as "the closest I've ever come to recording a concept album. It has a beginning, middle and end. It's a journey." Skin garnered generally positive reviews with Metacritic scoring the album 73/100 from 9 reviews.[9] Recorded post her breakup with first partner Julie Cypher, critics noted that Skin was "A harrowing, clearly autobiographical dissection of a decaying relationship." Despite the positive reviews, Skin sold less than 500,000 copies. On the Billboard charts, it peaked at #9 but dropped out of the Top 200 after just 12 weeks. The single "I Want to Be in Love" was nominated for the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (losing to Lucinda Williams).

In 2002, Etheridge released her autobiography titled, "The Truth Is: My Life in Love and Music."

2004–present: Lucky, cancer diagnosis, Academy Awards and Fearless Love

Etheridge began 2004 with the release of her eighth album Lucky on February 10. The album was a more joyful Etheridge who was now in the midst of celebrating a new relationship with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels whom she began dating in 2001. Lucky performed similarly to Skin, selling less than 500,000 copies, peaking on the Billboard charts at #15 and spending 13 weeks on the charts. It also garnered a Grammy nomination for Etheridge's cover of the Greenwheel song "Breathe" for the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo (losing to Bruce Springsteen).

In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the 2005 Grammy Awards (the same ceremony for which "Breathe" was nominated), 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".[10]

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.[11][12]

Etheridge was also a judge for the 5th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[13]

In August 2006, Melissa also produced and sang the vocal tracks on the Brother Bear 2 soundtrack, including collaborations with Josh Kelley.[14]

Etheridge performs during the third night of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.

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.[15] 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 would begin recording her 11th studio album the following summer. This was the first time since 1999 Etheridge and Shanks were the only ones involved in the production of a project.

Etheridge performing live in 2010

Etheridge will be featured in UniGlobe Entertainment's breast cancer docudrama titled 1 a Minute scheduled for release in 2010.[16] 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 Bárbara 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.

Etheridge performed the role of St. Jimmy in Green Day's hit Broadway musical, American Idiot from February 1–6, 2011.[17][18] Etheridge said in July 2011 that she is writing songs for a musical that her partner, Linda Wallem, is writing.[19]

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 came out publicly as a lesbian in January 1993 at the Triangle Ball, a gay celebration of President Bill Clinton's first inauguration. Etheridge supported Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign and since her coming out has been famous as a gay rights activist. She is also a committed advocate for environmental issues and in 2006, she toured the US and Canada using biodiesel.[20]

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.

In April 2003, Etheridge became engaged to actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. The two had a commitment ceremony in Malibu, California, on September 20, 2003, which was featured on ABC's InStyle Celebrity Weddings.[21] In April 2006, Etheridge and Michaels announced that Michaels was pregnant with twins via an anonymous sperm donor. Michaels gave birth to a daughter, Johnnie Rose and a son, Miller Steven, on October 17, 2006.[citation needed]

Etheridge performing at a September 2011 ceremony where she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

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 were planning to marry but were currently "trying to find the right time... to go down and do it".[22] In November 2008, in response to the passing of California's Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, Etheridge announced that she would not pay her state taxes as an act of civil disobedience.[23] On April 15, 2010 Etheridge and Michaels announced they had separated.[24]

In October 2004, Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy.[citation needed] 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.[25] She said that the drug improved her mood and increased her appetite. 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.

Etheridge supported Barack Obama's decision to have Pastor Rick Warren speak at his 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."[26]

Awards

Academy Awards

The Academy Awards are presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS)[27]

Year Nominated work Award Result
2007 "I Need To Wake Up" from the documentary An Inconvenient Truth Best Original Song Won

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Etheridge has won two awards from fifteen nominations.

Year Nominated work Award Result
1989 "Bring Me Some Water" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
1990 "Brave and Crazy" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
1991 "The Angels" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
1993 "Ain't It Heavy" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Won
1995 "Come to My Window" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Won
Best Rock Song Nominated
"I'm the Only One" Best Rock Song Nominated
2000 "Angels Would Fall" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
Best Rock Song Nominated
Breakdown Best Rock Album Nominated
2001 "Enough of Me" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
2002 "I Want To Be In Love" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
2003 "The Weakness in Me" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female Nominated
2005 "Breathe" Best Rock Vocal Performance, Solo Nominated
2007 "I Need To Wake Up" Best Song Written for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media Nominated

Other accolades

At the 20th Annual Juno Awards in 1990, Etheridge won International Entertainer of the Year.[28]

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.[29]

In 2006, at the 17th GLAAD Media Awards, Etheridge received GLAAD's Stephen F. Kolzak Award, which honors openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equal rights.[30] In addition, she was awarded as Outstanding Music Artist for Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled.

On May 13, 2006, at Berklee College of Music's 2006 commencement, held at Northeastern University's Matthews Arena, in Boston, Massachusetts, Berklee's president, Roger H. Brown, presented Etheridge with an Honorary Doctor of Music Degree "in recognition of her music touching the lives of millions, her fearless and honest voice, and the way she has used her music and celebrity to inspire hope and courage among fellow cancer patients." Etheridge delivered the commencement address in front of more than 800 graduating students and 4,000 guests.[31]

On February 18, 2009, Etheridge was named the "Celebrity Marshall" for Boston's 2009 Pride Parade by the Boston Pride Committee.

On September 27, 2011, Etheridge received the honor of having her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Located at 6901 Hollywood Boulevard, it is the 2,450th star awarded.

Discography

References

  1. ^ a b c d Greg Prato. "All Music Guide". http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p4205. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  2. ^ Luca Prono. Melissa Etheridge. Greenwood Publishing Group. http://books.google.com/books?id=9VGrrAiSNAkC&pg=PT108&lpg=PT108&dq=Etheridge+iconic+gay&source=bl&ots=YQT2fEkngL&sig=UmA4jdBGHyC5OKTQVbdIFWBUGIk&hl=en&ei=Tk35S6rUG8H88AaS1-yzCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CCoQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=Etheridge%20iconic%20gay&f=false. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  3. ^ .books.google.com. The Truth Is. Random House. http://books.google.com/books?id=5_4DEtjV0vcC&pg=PA72&lpg=PA72&dq=carla+leopold+%2B+etheridge&source=bl&ots=-3LTGfzTdq&sig=xUszXiYspkFatC9h8fylYUxGeFs&hl=en&ei=ijgQTLLSMIq4NrS8kf8C&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2010-06-09. 
  4. ^ a b c cmt.com. "Melissa Etheridge". MTV Networks. http://www.cmt.com/artists/az/melissa_etheridge/bio.jhtml. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  5. ^ Dickerson, James L. (2005)"Go, Girl, Go! The Women's Revolutiion in Music," Schirmer Trade Books, p. 115.
  6. ^ Dickerson, James L. (2005) "Go, Girl, Go! The Women's Revolution in Music," Schirmer Trade Books, p. 114.
  7. ^ a b thestar.com (September 10, 1993). "Station spurs Etheridge". http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/thestar/access/504284821.html?dids=504284821:504284821&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Sep+10,+1993&author=&pub=The+Record&desc=Station+spurns+Etheridge&pqatl=google9. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  8. ^ a b c d e "RIAA Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 22, 2008.
  9. ^ Metacritic.com. "Metacritic review of Skin". http://www.metacritic.com/music/artists/etheridgemelissa/skin?q=etheridge. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  10. ^ Gail Mitchell (October 6, 2006). "India.Arie's 'Hair' Regrows With Pink". Billboard.com. http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003221568. 
  11. ^ MelissaEtheridge.com – Melissa
  12. ^ MelissaEtheridge.com – Melissa
  13. ^ Independent Music Awards – Past Judges
  14. ^ http://www.ultimatedisney.com/brotherbear2-pressrelease.html
  15. ^ "Nobel Peace Prize Concert 2007". nobelpeaceprize.org. http://nobelpeaceprize.org/concert/. Retrieved December 11, 2007. 
  16. ^ http://www.contactmusic.com/news.nsf/story/indian-star-rallies-celebrity-support-for-cancer-movie_1118440
  17. ^ http://www.melissaetheridge.com/content/melissa-green-days-american-idiot-broadway-feb-1-6
  18. ^ http://broadwayworld.com/article/BWW_TV_Melissa_Etheridge_Takes_the_Stage_with_the_AMERICAN_IDIOTS_20110202
  19. ^ http://www.revuewm.com/sounds/on-tour/item/1148-not-a-quiet-normal-life
  20. ^ Celebrities | Biodiesel Resource
  21. ^ http://www.afterellen.com/People/TammyLynnMichaels.html
  22. ^ [1]
  23. ^ Melissa Etheridge Refuses to Pay Taxes Over Gay-Marriage Ban" TV Guide. November 8, 2008. Retrieved on November 12, 2008.
  24. ^ "Melissa and Tammy Etheridge Separate". TVGuide.com. http://www.tvguide.com/News/Melissa-Etheridge-Split-1017323.aspx. 
  25. ^ NBC Dateline interview, aired 10/16/05. Transcript available at http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9673481/page/2/.
  26. ^ The Choice is ours now. The Huffington Post. Published December 22, 2008. Retrieved December 22, 2008.
  27. ^ "About the Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Archived from the original on April 7, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070407234926/http://www.oscars.org/aboutacademyawards/index.html. Retrieved April 13, 2007. 
  28. ^ "The Envelope – LA Times". The Los Angeles Times. http://theenvelope.latimes.com/extras/lostmind/year/1990/1990junos.htm. [dead link]
  29. ^ Gibson Guitar Awards: "And the Winner Is ..." (NY Rock)
  30. ^ GLAAD: Charlize Theron, Melissa Etheridge, "Transamerica," "The L Word," Honored at 17th Annual GLAAD Media Awards Presented by Absolut Vodka in Los Angeles
  31. ^ http://www.berklee.edu/commencement/2006/default.html

External links


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