May 29: Singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge is 50-years-old today.

Melissa Etheridge (has received fifteen Grammy Award nominations winning two, one Academy Award and has sold twenty-seven million albums worldwide and almost fourteen million in the United States alone.

Etheridge is known for her mixture of confessional lyrics, pop-based folk-rock, and raspy, smoky vocals. She has also been a gay and lesbian activist since January 1993.

Melissa Lou Etheridge was born in Leavenworth, Kansas. She was a member of the first "Power and Life" musical/dance group at Leavenworth High School. She began learning to play guitar when sew was eight years-old. She began to play in all-men country music groups during her teenage years, then moved to Boston to attend Berklee College of Music.

While in Berklee, Etheridge played the club circuit around Boston. After three semesters, she dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles. Etheridge was discovered in a bar called Vermie's in Pasadena, CA. A husband of a friend of hers on a women's soccer team she played on, Bill Leopold, watched her perform live, and was impressed. He has remained a pivotal part of Etheridge's career ever since.

In addition, gigs in lesbian bars around Los Angeles, got her discovered by Island Records chief Chris Blackwell. As a result, Melissa received a publishing deal to write songs for movies including the 1986 movie Weeds.

After an unreleased first effort was rejected by Island Records as being too polished, she recorded her simpler self-titled debut album in four days. The album, Melissa Etheridge, was an underground hit, and the single, "Bring Me Some Water,” was nominated for a Grammy.

She followed up her first album's modest success by contributing background and contributing vocals to Don Henley's album The End of the Innocence.

She went into the studio and recorded her second album Brave and Crazy which was released in 1989. The album peaked at #22 on the Billboard charts. Etheridge then went on the road to build up her fan base.

In 1992, Etheridge released her third album Never Enough. Similar to her prior two albums, Never Enough peaked at #21 but gave Etheridge her first Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for her single "Ain't It Heavy.” Never Enough was considered more personal and mature, and seemed to inadvertently address rumors about her sexuality.

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The Truth Is . . .: My Life in Love and Music

On September 21, 1993, Etheridge released what would become her mainstream breakthrough recording Yes I Am. The album spent 138 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts and peaked at #15 and scored mainstream hits "Come to My Window" and her only Billboard Top 10 single "I'm the Only One,” which also hit #1 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. Yes I Am earned a RIAA certification of 6× Platinum.

Etheridge earned her second Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female for her single "Come to My Window.” She also garnered two additional nominations in the Best Rock Song category for "I'm the Only One" and "Come to My Window" losing to Bruce Springsteen's "Streets of Philadelphia.”

In a visit to Leavenworth in November 1994, she performed a benefit concert for a new park to be built near the high school. A ball field at the park is named after her father, John Etheridge. (In 1992, Etheridge established a performing arts scholarship at Leavenworth High School in honor of her father.)

The success of Yes I Am helped increase sales of Etheridge's earlier albums. In 1995 Melissa Etheridge earned a RIAA certification of 2× Platinum while Never Enough earned a RIAA certification of Platinum.
Etheridge's follow-up to Yes I Am was the moderately successful Your Little Secret which wasn't as well received by critics as her prior recordings. Still, Your Little Secret  has become the highest charting album of Etheridge's career reaching #6 on the Billboard album charts. The album produced two Top 40 singles "I Want to Come Over" and "Nowhere to Go"  and earned a RIAA certification of 2× Platinum.
In 1996, Etheridge won ASCAP Songwriter of the Year award. She also took a lengthy break from the music business to concentrate on her private life. She also recorded "Sin Tener A Donde Ir (Nowhere to Go)" for the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte: Red Hot + Latin produced by the Red Hot Organization.

In 1997, she appeared as herself on the sitcom Ellen in "The Puppy Episode Part 2.”
Etheridge returned to the music charts with the release of Breakdown in October 1999 which peaked at #12 on the Billboard charts.  Breakdown became her first album of Etheridge's career to be nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. In addition, her single "Angels Would Fall" was nominated in two categories: Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female and Best Rock Song. A year later, another single from the album "Enough of Me" was nominated for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. The album earned a RIAA Gold certification.

2001 saw the release of Skin. Recorded after her breakup with first partner. Despite positive reviews, Skin sold less than 500,000 copies. The single "I Want to Be in Love" was nominated for the Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female. The next year, Etheridge released her autobiography titled, The Truth Is: My Life in Love and Music.

Etheridge began 2004 with the release of her eighth album Lucky on February 10. The album was a more joyful Etheridge who was now in the midst of celebrating a new relationship with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. Lucky also sold less than 500,000 copies.

In April 2006, Etheridge and Michaels announced that Michaels was pregnant with twins via an anonymous sperm donor. Michaels gave birth to a daughter and son the following October.

In November 2008, in response to the passing of California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, Etheridge announced that she would not pay her state taxes as an act of civil disobedience.

Then in 2010, Tammy and Melissa separated. At the time, Melissa’s rep said: "Melissa and Tammy Etheridge are saddened to announce that they are now separated. We ask for consideration and respect for our family as we go through this difficult period."



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