Iconic pioneer and performer Melissa Etheridge seemed destined for success right out of the gate. She entered the U.S. music scene in 1988 with the release of her first album that led to an appearance on the 1989 Grammy Awards show.
The “out” lesbian was discovered while playing at a bar in Pasadena. A friend’s husband who worked for a record label came to a show and the rest was history. Born in Kansas, Etheridge started playing guitar when she was eight years old. She spent a few semesters at Berklee College of Music in Boston, but dropped out and moved to California to pursue her passion.
In 1993, following the lead of K.D. Lange, she came out as a lesbian, which helped pave the way for others in a time when most performers kept such matters to themselves.
While Etheridge has had many career highs, she is no stranger to pain. A son she conceived with the help of a former partner and David Crosby who donated his sperm, sadly, died of an opioid overdose.
Etheridge is herself a cancer survivor. Despite losing her hair from chemotherapy, Etheridge appeared on the 2005 Grammy telecast to sing “Piece of My Heart” in tribute to Janis Joplin and give hope to many.
In February 2007, she celebrated a career milestone winning an Oscar in the Best Song category for “I Need to Wake Up,” part of the soundtrack for the documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
In 2021, Etheridge released the nine-track album One Way Out—a collection of songs she wrote in the late 1980s and early ‘90s that hadn’t made the cut—giving fans a deeper glimpse of who she was. Known for “confessional” lyrics and Joplin-esque vocals, she’s become one of America’s prolific female singer-songwriters for the better part of two decades.