In 1984, Etheridge caught a break when she was hired as a songwriter for A&M Records, giving the young musician the chance to write songs for B movies.
Etheridge’s career leaped forward in 1986, when Island Records president Chris Blackwell heard her perform. He signed her a few days later. After an unreleased first effort, she completed her stripped down self-titled debut in just four days. Melissa Etheridge(1988) was an underground hit, and the single, ‘Bring Me Some Water’, was nominated for a Grammy.
In 1989, Brave and Crazy was released and, failing to break the top of the charts, Etheridge went on the road. She built a widespread fan base thanks to long, high-energy sets in the spirit of her musical idol, Bruce Springsteen.
While the adoration continued with her third release, Never Enough (1992), it was Etheridge’s fourth record, Yes I Am (1993), which launched her into rock stardom. With ex-Police producer Hugh Padgham at the helm, the album produced two giant hits: ‘I’m the Only One’ and ‘Come to My Window.’
Etheridge, who continued to churn out studio albums, including the 2004 recording Lucky, found her life derailed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Etheridge would go on to make a full recovery, but just like so much else in her life, she wasn’t afraid to expose her illness or the struggles that came with it as she fought the disease.
In one of the more dramatic moments in Grammy history, Etheridge, bald from her chemo treatment, showed up at the 2005 awards her first appearance since being diagnosed with cancer. Later that night, she delivered a driving rendition of Janice Joplin’s Piece of My Heart.
A greatest hits album was put out in 2005, and two years later a record of new material hit stores with the release of The Awakening. That same year, Etheridge was rewarded with an Oscar for her original song, ‘I Need to Wake Up’, which had been showcased on the soundtrack for Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.