Melissa always loved music. When she was little, she formed a band with some of the other neighborhood children. They would strum badminton rackets and bang on pots and pans. At eight years old, Melissa's father bought her a guitar, and she began taking lessons from a jazz guitarist, Don Raymond, who was missing fingers (he ran Leveanworth's only music store). She says, "He tapped his foot really loud on an old wooden board. He's the reason I have really good rhythm."
Melissa wrote her own song, "Don't Let it Fly away it's Love," at ten years old. Her first performance was at the Leavenworth Plaza Tower Mall when she was eleven. At twelve years old, she was a part-time member of a country-western band that regularly performed at Parents without Partners dances and at bars. Melissa even played for the Leavenworth Prison. She said, "Prisons have the most enthusiastic audiences. It's like playing for 2 000 people who all want to be entertained."
Melissa was a jock in junior high. By then, she also played drums, sax, piano, clarinet, and a 12-string guitar. At that time, she loved Soul Train and American Bandstand. However, she loathed the Partridge Family. She says, "They faked their music, and that bugged the Hell out of me."
Melissa kissed her first girl at seventeen years old. Although she didn't even know what a lesbian was, she later said "fireworks went off, and then, it was just…clear."
She graduated from Leavenworth High School in the fall of 1979. She then moved to Boston were she attended the Berklee College of Music. She originally planned on majoring in guitar but dropped out after her first year.
After dropping from Berklee, Melissa worked gigs and then moved to LA on her twenty-first birthday. She made tapes and sent them to many different record companies with no success. They just weren't interested in a woman playing rock. She said, "They weren't interested. I played some women's music festivals, but I was always rock-n-roll whereas their music was always quieter, more folky… I never did write any songs that were specifically about women--I wanted the big picture, singing about passion and desire, and love of any kind."
Finally, in 1986, when a producer convinced Island Record's founder Chris Blackwell to see Melissa perform at a Long Beach bar, Que Sera Sera (a lesbian bar). Blackwell was impressed and signed Melissa.
She at first recorded a pop album that both she and Blackwell hated. It was never released. After that, her second attempt for a debut album, which was self-titled, was finished in four days and was released in 1988. Her biggest hit on the album was "Bring Me Some Water," which was even nominated for a Grammy.
In 1989, Brave and Crazy was released. Again, the album didn't explode up the charts.
Never Enough was released in 1992. This time, however, she added some dance-funk influences to her style. Although "Ain't it Heavy" won a Grammy, the record didn't sell well. She also alienated her core audience, who admired her raw sound.
In 1993, her greatest album, Yes I Am, was released. With hits such as "Come to My Window," "I'm the Only One," "If I Wanted to," and "Silent Legacy" (Hell, the entire album is great!), Melissa finally hit it big. The album was honest, as was the title. She was open and feared nothing, which made the album so good. In March of 1995, Melissa won the Grammy award for Female Rock Vocalist of the year for "Come To My Window."
In 1995, "Your Little Secret" was released. Although it was a great album (in my opinion anyway), it wasn't that big of a hit. "I Want to Come Over" received airplay, but not nearly as much as it deserved.
In 1993, Melissa Etheridge openly admitted that she was a lesbian. In April of 1993, she performed at the "March of Washington," a gay rights movement. She openly supports gay rights and same-sex marriage. In July of 1996, she said:
"This is merely a health insurance issue…visitation in the hospital issue…to be flying together overseas and not have to fill out two forms…to look at a form that you fill out and when it says 'spouse,' being able to fill in the name of the person who would fall into that category. Those are the things that people don't realize and take for granted."
Melissa and her long-time partner, Julie Cypher, (the two met on August 23, 1988) have two children. Their first child, a baby girl, was born on Monday, February 10, 1997, at 1:35 AM. Her name is Bailey Jean, and she weighed eight pounds, ten ounces. Their second child, a baby boy, was born on Wednesday, November 18, 1998, at 10:27 AM. His name is Beckett, and he weighed nine pounds, five ounces. Melissa and Julie also have two dogs and two cats (they had to give away Boo, their Cockatoo, because they "were not home enough"). The dogs' names are Angel and Bingo, and the cats' names are Gabrielle and Gwendolyn.
Melissa is expecting to released another album and a tour in 1999. She has also mentioned that she and Julie have discussed having another child. Julie would have the baby because (as Melissa put it), "She does it so well."
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