Melissa Etheridge

Melissa Etheridge digs deep into her soul to deliver emotionally charged lyrics with that bluesy rasp of a voice, hinting of personal pain and life experience. Her self-penned anthems and ballads are honest and empowering, illustrating that strength comes from struggling and the ultimate realization that burdens don’t have to be carried alone.
She has always approached music with the same intensity she devotes to life and causes near and dear to her heart. She is a cancer survivor and a success story.
Etheridge is one of rock music’s boldest female icons, not only because of her thought-provoking songs with powerful meaning, but because she also practices what she preaches with activism, acceptance and community involvement.
Her critically acclaimed eponymous self-titled debut album was certified gold, hinting of the arrival of even more heavy-hitting tunes yet to be released. Etheridge’s popularity is built around a belief system and such memorable songs as “Bring Me Some Water,” “No Souvenirs” and “Ain’t It Heavy” for which she won her first Grammy for Best Female Rock Vocalist.
Etheridge hit her commercial and artistic stride with her fourth album, Yes I Am, featuring the massive hits “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window,” a searing song of longing that brought her a second Grammy. The six times platinum album spent more than two and a half years on the album chart. Etheridge is also an Oscar winner for Best Original Song in 2007 for “I Need To Wake Up.”
She became one of the most popular recording artists of the ’90s due to her mixture of her personal-truth based lyrics, blues-based folk-rock and Janis Joplin-flavored vocals. Her road to success wasn’t always smooth sailing, mostly self-inflicted, debating privately whether or not to disclose publicly she was gay early on in her career.
Hailing from Leavenworth, Kansas, Etheridge first picked up the guitar at the age of eight and began penning her own songs shortly thereafter. Playing in local bands throughout her teens, Etheridge then attended the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The up-and-coming singer/songwriter and guitarist dropped out after a year before making her way to Los Angeles in the early ’80s to take a shot at a career in music. At this point, Etheridge’s music was slightly more bluesy than her subsequently signature folk-pop style, as a demo of original compositions caught the attention of Bill Leopold, who signed on as Etheridge’s manager. Soon after, steady gigs began coming her way, including a five-night-a-week residency at the Executive Suite in Long Beach, which led to a bidding war between such major record labels as A&M, Capitol, EMI, and Warner Bros., but it was Island Records that Etheridge decided to go with.
Her first recorded work appeared on the long-forgotten soundtrack to the Nick Nolte movie Weeds before her self-titled debut was issued in 1988. The album became an underground success and was compared to powerhouse artists like Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, as it spawned the hit single “Bring Me Some Water” and earned gold certification. The album peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200 and earned Etheridge her first Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.
In the wake of the album’s success, Etheridge performed at the Grammy Awards the following year and contributed vocals to Don Henley’s “The End of the Innocence.”
She started to make headway with each subsequent album. Brave and Crazy in 1989, proved to be another gold-certified success, and three years later, in 1992, she gained more ground with Never Enough, with music that was more varied and demonstrative of her ability to stretch as an artist and musician.
It was Etheridge’s fourth release, Yes I Am that would become her explosive commercial breakthrough and her “coming out” confessional. It was her way of putting all the rumors and questions about her sexuality to rest. It produced her two major MTV and radio hits, “I’m the Only One,” and “Come to My Window,” which featured a video with movie actress Juliette Lewis. The album sold a staggering six million copies in the U.S. during a single-year period and earned that second Grammy.
She continued to record throughout the ’90s, and then Etheridge’s autobiography, The Truth Is: My Life in Love and Music was released in 2002. In 2004, she announced she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. Early detection allowed her to recover and she gave strength to many of others stricken by the disease with a powerful performance of Janis Joplin’s “Pieces of My Heart” at the 47th annual Grammys, held in February 2005. That September, Etheridge released Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled, a compilation of career highlights and new material. It featured a cover of Tom Petty’s “Refugee” as well as “Piece of My Heart” and a new song dedicated to breast cancer survivors. The album was a success, peaking at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 and going gold almost immediately.
Etheridge continued to release new music, The Awakening (2007), A New Thought for Christmas (2008), Fearless Love (2010 and 4th Street Feeling (2012), named after the main drag in her hometown. It marked the first occasion in her career where Etheridge played all the guitar parts on one of her recordings. Two years later, she went independent with her 13th album, This Is M.E., an ambitious collection that saw her collaborating with several different producers including R&B specialists Roccstar and Jon Levine; the album debuted at No. 21 on Billboard’s Top 200. Two years later, Etheridge switched to Concord’s revived Stax imprint in Memphis to complete her critically lauded album in 2014, This Is M.E. The cover art for the album is a mosaic that includes pictures submitted by fans. One of the top singles from the album was “Take My Number.”
In 2011, Etheridge made her Broadway debut as St. Jimmy in Green Day’s rock opera, “American Idiot,” where she replaced Billie Joe Armstrong for a week, and the same year, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She released a live album in 2015 titled, A Little Bit of Me: Live in L.A. It was recorded at the closing show of the U.S. leg of her This Is M.E. Tour in 2014 at the Orpheum Theater in downtown L.A.
In reaction to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida in June 2016, Etheridge released a song called “Pulse.” She wrote the song as a way to process her own pain. Out of that dark tragedy, she looked for understanding.
“We want to try to make sense,” she told Rolling Stone, “We want to try to heal. We want to bring some meaning, some purpose. We also want to put it down forever in history. That’s how I’m coping.”
All proceeds from the sale of “Pulse” will benefit Equality Florida, the states largest LGBT civil rights organization.


 

MELISSA ETHERIDGE

Edgewater E Center

Saturday, May 20. 8 p.m.; doors open 6:30 p.m. (See Showtimes for tickets)