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For more than three decades, Melissa Etheridge has been one of folk-rock’s most resonant voices, offering comfort and solace to listeners while also serving as a defiant beacon of hope. The Kansas-born Etheridge initially studied music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, dropping out to pursue her dreams while playing sets in Southern California’s lesbian bars. Etheridge’s 1988 self-titled debut—which she recorded in four days—went double-platinum and was hailed widely by critics for its stripped-down take on roots rock, which recalled fellow Midwesterner John Cougar Mellencamp while also channeling the passion of Janis Joplin. Its blues-tinged single “Bring Me Some Water” was nominated for the Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy, one of 15 nominations she’s received over the course of her career.
One of her two wins was in honor of “Come to My Window,” a single from her fourth album ‘Yes I Am’ that was released after she came out of the closet in 1993. That jangly anthem for self-acceptance, and its stunning video starring Juliette Lewis, remains one of the 1990s’ most beloved singles; in 2001 when she performed it at The Concert For New York City the audience happily filled in after a mic glitch left her inaudible, while in 2017 she celebrated Independence Day with a stirring performance fronting the famed orchestra The Boston Pops.
Etheridge’s career has been a testament to tenacity and honesty, with her rich, raspy voice making her forthright lyrics land even more powerfully. The bluesy, sultry “Window” follow-up “I’m the Only One” peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100; her 2006 song “I Need to Wake Up,” which accompanied the environmentally conscious film ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ became the first song from a documentary to win the Best Original Song Oscar, and in 2014 she launched ME Records, her own record label, through which she’s released projects like her Stax Records salute ‘MEmphis Rock and Soul.’ On her forthcoming tour of the U.S. and Europe, Etheridge is celebrating the 25th anniversary of ‘Yes I Am’—and a career defined by a willingness to say “yes” to her artistic and personal desires.