Álainn or Appallin’: Melissa Etheridge
When I was 19 (many moons ago) I went to a small venue in Dublin called the Olympia Theatre, to see Melissa Etheridge in concert. It was amazing, one of the few times I have built a gig up in my head and it delivered. She was over an hour late because Ireland’s biggest boyband were on the same talk show with her that night and she was stuck in the mayhem, but no one cared, we all waited patiently listening to Alanis Morissette on the speakers.
When she walked out on stage it was to rapturous applause – she had that presence that some performers have – and with every song we are all on our feet singing our little hearts out. It was a gig I will always remember. She spoke about when she herself was 19, and I was delighted. I came out to my parents within a week.
Born in Kansas in 1961, Melissa has been playing the guitar since she was 8. Beginning in country music she moved onto to rock and roll having moved to Boston for college. In true musician style Etheridge left college early and headed off to LA to be discovered in a bar by the husband of a friend Melissa made on the local soccer team. (*cough*)
Etheridge’s first album is still her best in my eyes. It’s so stripped down and raw that it still gets you. It was put together after her first effort was rejected by Island Records, and it laid the foundations of an amazing career.
The unforgettable Bring Me Some Water was nominated for a Grammy. Melissa went on to win two Grammys over her illustrious career so far, both for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. She has been nominated no fewer than 15 times in all. Let’s not forget her Oscar either, for the incredible song “I Need to Wake Up” from the film documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Her many albums all speak to her truth and her undeniable talent in bringing you on the journey with her.
Melissa came out publicity in 1993 at Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Her relationship with long time partner Julie Cypher was one of the few same-sex relationships to get much media attention at the time, they had two children together but separated in 2001 when Cypher began to question her sexuality.
2003 saw Melissa engaged to actress Tammy Lynn Michaels, they had a commitment ceremony which was featured in ABC’s “InStyle Celebrity Weddings”. Three years later, Michaels gave birth to twins. Although the couple separated in 2010, Etheridge made a stand in 2008 and refused to pay her state taxes as she was not allowed to marry in the state. You go girl!
2004 saw Etheridge struck with the challenge of being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. The way she went on TV and online to discuss her struggle so openly was deeply inspiring and there is no doubt that her openness touched many women in the same situation. She appeared on the Grammys in 2005 to pay tribute to the great Janis Joplin and showed all women that there can be life after cancer.
Her autobiography, released in 2002, is called The Truth Is: My Life in Love and Music and is well worth a look. However, I think she should write another, such is her story.
Currently Etheridge is on tour. She was back in Dublin recently, and will be spreading her fearless love all over the world as her tour continues. You can see if you are lucky enough to be near a venue here.
So what do you think of this legend? Need we ask?