Melissa Etheridge's raw, straight-from-the-heart vocals and blues-based guitar riffs have led many critics to dub her the Janis Joplin of the '90s.
Born in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1961, Etheridge got her first guitar at the age of 8, wrote her first song at age 10 and by 12 was playing in a country band that gigged around the area. At age 17, she had her first romantic relationship with a woman, and life changed forever. If Leavenworth wasn't the best place in the world for an aspiring musician, it also wasn't the easiest place to be a lesbian. So in 1979, just after graduating high school, Etheridge headed to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music.
She dropped out of Berklee after a year, but spent a couple of years soaking up the relatively cosmopolitan atmosphere of Boston and gigging around before making the move to Los Angeles in 1982. In L.A. it became apparent that woman singer/songwriters performing honest, straightforward songs with a bluesy rock flavor weren't exactly what the music industry was interested in at the moment, but Etheridge persevered, eventually developing a small but dedicated following, particularly among the lesbian community. The proverbial "big break" came in 1986, when Island records founder Chris Blackwell caught her show at a bar in Long Beach, liked what he heard and signed her to the label. Blackwell's judgment proved sound; Etheridge's self-titled debut album was released in 1988 and went platinum.
Her follow-up, Brave and Crazy, also went platinum, while her third effort, 1992's Never Enough, contained "Ain't It Heavy," the track that earned her a Grammy for Best Female Rock Performance. Still, it was her fourth album -- 1993's Yes I Am -- that cemented both Etheridge's celebrity and her status as one of America's premier performers. The album boasted 3 top ten hits, one of which, "Come To My Window," won her a second Grammy.
The same year that the prophetically titled Yes I Am was released, Etheridge took a bold step by going public with her sexual preference. The highly publicized announcement -- which took place at a party celebrating President Bill Clinton's inauguration -- didn't alienate her wide base of fans, and seemed to spark Etheridge to a new level of social activism. Since that time she has been a tireless and vocal advocate for gay rights.
The latter half of the '90s were extraordinary years for Etheridge. She performed onstage before thousands at Woodstock, sang "Piece Of My Heart" during Janis Joplin's posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, performed with her idol Bruce Springsteen during her Unplugged special on MTV and won ASCAP's Songwriter of the Year award, among other things. Perhaps most significantly, in 1997 she and her partner of many years, Julie Cypher (who Etheridge had met when Cypher was assistant director of her first video) celebrated the birth of their first child, Bailey Jean. The next year, Cypher gave birth to a boy, Beckett.
In 1999 Etheridge returned with Breakdown, a heartfelt collection of songs including the track "Scarecrow," a tribute to gay-bashing victim Matthew Shepard.
In September 2000 Etheridge and Cypher called it quits after 10 years together. Etheridge is slated to release her seventh album, Skin, in July 2001.
(biography from RollingStone.com)
1988 - Melissa Etheridge
1989 - Brave & Crazy
1992 - Never Enough
1993 - Yes I Am
1995 - Your Little Secret
1999 - Breakdown
2001 - Skin
2004 - Lucky
2005 - Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled
2007 - The Awakening
2008 - A New Thought For Christmas… Expand
Melissa Etheridge's Scores