MELISSA ETHERIDGE, American musician, born; Academy Award-winning and two-time Grammy-winning American rock singer-songwriter and musician. In 1982, Etheridge moved from Leavenworth, Kansas to Los Angeles to break into the music business. She got some small gigs performing at The Candy Store on the Sunset Strip, as well as two Lesbian bars, the Executive Suite in Long Beach and Vermie’s in Pasadena.
Some of her early fans from Vermie’s gave her demo tape to Bill Leopold, a friend’s husband who worked in the music business. Etheridge auditioned for Leopold, who was so impressed that he offered to represent her on the spot.
As Etheridge continued performing in Lesbian bars in Los Angeles, Leopold arranged for music executives to come see her play. Eventually, she caught the attention of A&M Records, who hired her as a staff songwriter. For two years, Etheridge wrote music for A&M and many of her songs were recorded by mainstream artists.
In 1985, 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, the Lifetime Television documentary of her life. Etheridge is famous as a Gay Rights activist, having come out publicly in January 1993 at the Triangle Ball, a Gay/Lesbian celebration of President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration.
She is also a committed advocate for environmental issues and in 2006, she toured the US and Canada using biodiesel.
Etheridge had a long-term partnership with Julie Cypher, which made headlines. During this partnership, Cypher gave birth to two children, Bailey Jean, born February 1997, and Beckett, born November 1998, fathered by sperm donor David Crosby. In 2000, Cypher began to reconsider her sexuality and in September, Etheridge and Cypher announced they were separating. In 2001, Etheridge documented her breakup with Cypher and other experiences in her memoir The Truth Is… My Life in Love and Music. In the book, Etheridge 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, Etheridge went on to exchange vows in a 2003 commitment ceremony with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels.
In 2004, Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy and is now in remission.