17 Interesting Melissa Etheridge Facts You’ll Love to Know

melissa etheridge on the red carpet wearing a black shirt and black jacket
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Last updated on August 4th, 2023 at 07:09 am

Melissa Etheridge is the classic story of success. She’s the small-town girl who went to the big city and made it big, releasing hit singles and taking home awards, including some of the most coveted, like Grammy Awards and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

Get ready to learn what you never knew before about the “I’m the Only One” singer. Here are 17 Melissa Etheridge facts you didn’t know that will make you smile.

1. Melissa Etheridge was Part of an Inaugural Dance Group

melissa etheridge with her kids
Image from Shutterstock.

During her high school years at Leavenworth High School in Leavenworth, Kansas (1956-1979), Melissa Etheridge was part of the school’s first musical/dance group, Power and Life. Based on this first of the Melissa Etheridge facts, it seems she was making strides in music from a young age.

2. She Established a Scholarship in Honor of Her Father

a stack of books, an apple, and abc blocks on a table
Image by Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

Following the loss of her father, John Etheridge, in August 1991, she established a performing arts scholarship in his honor at her alma mater, Leavenworth High School. Her father was a former American Constitution teacher at the school.

3. Melissa Etheridge Started Playing Guitar Early

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Music was in Melissa Etheridge’s soul from a young age. She started playing the guitar at the tender age of 8.

Related: 10 Fun Sheryl Crow Facts

4. Melissa Etheridge is a College Dropout

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Image by Charles Deloye on Unsplash

Melissa Etheridge knew music was her path. Although she did attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, completing three semesters of her education, she ultimately dropped out to pursue a career in music, which led her to Los Angeles. It was there that she was discovered during a performance at Vermie’s, a bar in Pasadena, California.

5. Melissa Etheridge’s Friends Helped Her Get Discovered

melissa etheridge speaking at a US government event
Melissa Etheridge shared her personal experiences of advocating for the LGBT community at a United States Department of Justice Event with Attorney General Eric Holder looking on. Image is in the Public Domain.

After moving to California, she made friends with girls from a local women’s soccer team who heard her playing at the bar. Karla Leopold, wife of music manager Bill Leopold, was one of them. She convinced her husband to come to hear Etheridge play, and the rest was history as he remains an integral part of the “Come to My Window” singer’s career.

6. Melissa Etheridge Was Discovered While Playing Lesbian Bars

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While Bill Leopold was part of bringing Melissa Etheridge to the big time, it also helped that she was seen playing in LA lesbian bars by Chris Blackwell, chief of Island Records. Just before she was discovered, she sent her demo to Olivia Records, a lesbian record label, but they turned her down.


7. She’s Written for Movies

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Image by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Along with being signed to Island Records, Melissa Etheridge also received a publishing deal to write for movies. One of her most popular works is included in the 1987 drama Weeds. 

Related: 16 Best Movies About Music

8. She Has an Academy Award

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This might be a surprising entry on our list of Melissa Etheridge facts, but her publishing deal to write for movies paid off. She won an Academy Award for her song “I Need to Wake Up,” featured in An Inconvenient Truth, the 2006 Al Gore documentary.

9. Melissa Etheridge is a Lesbian

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Melissa Etheridge publicly came out of the closet as a lesbian during the Triangle Ball, a gay celebration of the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton, in January 1993. Ever since she has been an activist for gay rights. For her efforts to promote equal rights, she was awarded the GLAAD’s Stephen F. Kolzak Award in 2006.

10. Melissa Etheridge’s Love Life

melissa etheridge with her partner tammy lynn michaels
Image from Shutterstock

She was connected to film director Julie Cypher for many years, with whom she had two children via artificial insemination after Cypher used sperm donated by musician David Crosby. The pair announced their separation on Sept. 19, 2000. Her other partners include Tammy Lynn Michaels and her current wife, Linda Wallem.

11. Melissa Etheridge is a Cancer Survivor

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Image by Angiola Harry on Unsplash

Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2004 and immediately underwent surgery and began chemotherapy. She celebrated her 10-year remission in October 2013 with the release of her single, “I Run for Life.”

12. Melissa Etheridge Lost a Son

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Image by Sandy Millar on Unsplash.

Melissa Etheridge is no stranger to heartache. On May 13, 2020, she announced on social media that her son Beckett, whom she had with Julie Cypher, passed away from an opioid overdose. He was only 21.

13. Melissa Etheridge is Hard of Hearing

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Melissa Etheridge is no stranger to doing what it takes to ensure she can continue with her music. The New York Times claimed that Etheridge wore hearing aids in a 2016 article.

Related: 15 Best 90s Songs

14. She was Featured on Who Do You Think You Are? 

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Melissa Etheridge was one of the celebrities featured on the hit show Who Do You Think You Are? in 2015. During the episode, “Melissa Etheridge digs into her French roots and finds a family shaken by a scandalous lawsuit; a turbulent relationship entangled with tragedy; and an adventuresome ancestor who prospered in colonial America,” according to the episode description.

15. Melissa Etheridge Boycotted Colorado

image of the welcome to colorful colorado sign
Image by Josh Rinard on Unsplash

When Colorado passed Amendment 2 in 1993, she boycotted from playing any shows in the state. The amendment “barred cities and counties from recognizing gays as a protected class.”

16. She Didn’t Pay State Taxes

a manila folder open to tax documents and a coffee cup
Image by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The Colorado boycott wasn’t her only political. According to this entry on our Melissa Etheridge facts list, she refused to pay state taxes in November 2008 after California’s Proposition 8 was passed banning same-sex marriage.  

17. She Wrote an Autobiography

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Image by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Melissa Etheridge released her autobiography “The Truth Is: My Life in Love and Music” in 2002.

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Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


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