Melissa Etheridge: A trailblazing icon


Melissa Etheridge seated with her guitar in front of velvet curtains
Melissa Etheridge brings her greatest hits to Australia in May 2024

Melissa Etheridge brings her greatest hits to Australia in May 2024. We look back at how she became a trailblazer for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Melissa Etheridge is a modern-day icon of the LGBTQIA+ community.

The singer-songwriter has had decades of success with her raspy voice and music filled with raw and confessional lyrics.

After being discovered performing in smoky Los Angeles lesbian bars, the Kansas native went on to achieve monumental success.

Her first album Melissa Etheridge was a hit across the world with Australia particularly gravitating towards the release, reaching no.3 on the ARIA charts.

The album included the classics Bring Me Some Water and Like the Way I Do, the latter a personal favourite for Melissa to perform.

“It is filled with passion and agony and desire and utter gut-wrenching pain. If you’ve ever seen me in concert, you know that when I perform that song, it becomes a part of me. It’s a transforming song for both the audience and me,” she has said when describing it.

Coming out

Melissa would release two more albums with further success before she would reveal to the world that she was gay.

At a 1993 LGBTQIA+ event to celebrate President Bill Clinton’s inauguration, Melissa made the announcement.

The same year, she released Yes I Am, with the title being a cheeky homage to her coming out after years of rumours.

The song Come to My Window from the album alludes to the discussion of her sexuality with the lyrics:

I don’t care what they think
I don’t care what they say
What do they know
About this love anyway?

In the early 90s, LGBTQIA+ visibility was gaining momentum, but it was still rare for artists to be out so publicly.

When asked if she thought this impacted her career, Melissa told The Guardian:

“Oh God, no! Coming out was amazing for my career. It made me unique back then. The world was changing in the 90s. The gay movement was coming up, we were organised, and it was just a perfect time for me.”

The album had success worldwide and would become one of the Top 100 selling albums of the decade in the United States.

Trailblazer

In a career that has included 16 studio albums, it’s remarkable that music isn’t the only way Melissa has been a lesbian trailblazer.

She has had four children in previous relationships with women in a time when rainbow families were scarce, particularly high-profile ones.

Before the birth of her first children in the late 90s, Melissa told The Advocate about her wish and belief in rainbow families.

“I think that the more gay parents raise good, strong, compassionate people, the better the world will be,” she said.

Melissa also worked extensively with AIDS organisations and boycotted playing in Colorado during the early 90s due to an anti-gay bill in the state.

Personal joy and pain

Melissa had two long-term relationships before marrying her wife Linda Wallem.

The couple became friends during the 2000s, and Linda moved in with Melissa to help her and her family after a divorce.

Eventually, the pair took the plunge into a relationship and then a marriage in 2014.

The pair have a close bond and bizarrely also share the exact same birthdate: May 29, 1961.

However, it hasn’t all been a life of joy for Melissa. In 2004 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo treatment.

She bravely performed at the following year’s Grammy Awards completely bald from her chemotherapy.

It was during this time that Etheridge became a fierce advocate for medicinal cannabis use, something she still rallies behind to this day.

Broadway

Even with a life of joy, tragedy and decades of music, Melissa continues to break new ground.

In the last year, her show Melissa Etheridge: My Window made both its Off-Broadway and Broadway debut.

She wrote the performance with her wife Linda, and it’s received critical acclaim for its raw approach.

In the show, Melissa performs some of her greatest hits and shares stories about the songs, and her life.

Australian tour

Australian fans will have their chance to see Melissa revisit her greatest hits in May next year.

She will perform in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney as part of her national tour.

The tour kicks off on May 10th at Riverside Theatre in Perth, before moving through to the AEC Theatre in Adelaide on May 12th, The Forum in Melbourne on May 15th, and finishing up her tour at Darling Harbour Theatre in Sydney on Friday 17th May.

Don’t miss your chance to see a true icon of our community in concert.

For information and tickets for the Melissa Etheridge tour visit teglive.com.au.

For the latest LGBTIQA+ Sister Girl and Brother Boy news, entertainment, community stories in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

Dale Roberts

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

1 Comment

  1. Michael
    14 December 2023
    Reply

    I would have loved to have gone to see Melissa, except I live in Brisbane, but like ABBA in 1977 it is the one mainland capital city left out NOT included or listed with its date? Not even Twin Towns on Gold Coast (if there’s no Brisbane date). This fine publication has placed the ad, & this brilliant article in a QLD magazine nonetheless. Surely the Tivoli or even The Zoo would have been only too keen to have Melissa Etheridge perform on their stage? if BEC & BCC where too big? Are we going to be told why no QLD date?

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