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Etheridge, Melissa (b. 1961)  
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In hopes of salvaging the project, Etheridge, drummer Craig Krampf, bassist Kevin McCormick, and engineer Niko Bolas re-recorded all the material in just four days. The second version, which captured the energy and spontaneity of Etheridge's live performances, met with Blackwell's approval.

While awaiting the release of the album, Etheridge went on tour in Britain and Europe. In Germany she visited Dachau and was moved by the sight of the uniforms with pink triangles that had been worn by prisoners there. She was dismayed that there was no memorial to the homosexual victims of the Holocaust.

In 1988 Etheridge's self-titled debut album was greeted with favorable reviews. Critics praised the vitality of her music and compared her to Janis Joplin, a performer whom Etheridge acknowledges as an important influence on her work.

Love and Honors

While on tour promoting the album, Etheridge made a video of the song "Bring Me Some Water." The associate director of the project was Julie Cypher, who would become Etheridge's first long-time partner.

At the time, however, Cypher was married to actor Lou Diamond Phillips. Etheridge and Cypher felt an immediate attraction to each other, but Cypher was still trying to maintain her troubled marriage. Not until January 1990 did she leave Phillips and move in with Etheridge.

Meanwhile, there were important developments in Etheridge's career. "Bring Me Some Water" was nominated for a Grammy in 1989, and that same year Etheridge's second album, Brave and Crazy, was released. Etheridge's songs received increasing play on the radio, and her videos appeared frequently on the cable music network VH-1. Both of the first two albums eventually earned platinum records for selling a million copies.

Coming Out Publicly

In January 1993 Etheridge, who had performed at some campaign events for Bill Clinton, and Cypher were invited to the President's inauguration. They attended the Triangle Ball, the first inaugural celebration for gay men and lesbians. After her friend k.d. lang introduced her to the crowd, Etheridge declared, "I'm real proud to say I'm a lesbian."

Etheridge's spontaneous decision to come out publicly received press coverage but had no adverse effect on her career. Two months after the announcement she won her first Grammy for "Ain't It Heavy" from her album Never Enough. Her fourth album, Yes I Am, released later in the year, was enormously successful. It included the hit song "Come to My Window," which would bring her another Grammy in 1994.

Etheridge was named The Advocate's Person of the Year for 1995. Her fifth album, Your Little Secret, debuted in the top ten on the charts. She began publicly addressing social issues such as same-sex marriage, saying that as soon as any state legalized it, she and Cypher would be "first in line."

Motherhood and Activism

In November 1996 Etheridge and Cypher appeared on the cover of an issue of Newsweek devoted to gay families. Cypher gave birth to the couple's first child in February 1997 and to their second in November 1998. Etheridge adopted the children in order to secure full parental rights.

Etheridge had not used her music as a political vehicle, but the murder of gay student Matthew Shepard in October 1998 led her to write "Scarecrow," a song that decried the that had caused his death.

In 1999 Etheridge became the host and narrator of a reality series on the Lifetime network, Beyond Chance, a show about improbable reunions, rescues, and paranormal events. Although a rock star seemed an unusual choice for the role, producers felt that the story-telling ability that Etheridge had shown as a songwriter suited her well for the job.

In 2000 Etheridge and Cypher broke up. In a creative approach to child custody, they bought houses on back-to-back lots so that their children could go from one to the other at will.

Lesbian Icon

Etheridge has had an extremely successful career as a musician, selling over twenty-five million records worldwide, performing in concert to enthusiastic audiences, and appearing in videos and on shows such as MTV's Unplugged, where she sang duets with Bruce Springsteen, whose music influenced hers.

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