Melissa Etheridge Sings Her Own Truth
“Fearless love is my
philosophy and an anthem for living,” says Etheridge, 49, who will bring her
“Fearless Love Tour” to the Riverside Theater Aug. 11. “I need to make sure
that I love fearlessly no matter what relationship I am in.”
The Leavenworth, Kan.,
native has long lived the courage of that conviction as an openly lesbian
performer, political activist and breast cancer survivor. One revelation from
that courage may be best articulated in a line from the new album’s title song:
“I am what I am, and I am what I am afraid of.”
“That’s part of the
cancer stuff,” says Etheridge, who was diagnosed in October 2004. “If I think
that I’m not thin enough or too old to be a rock star, then I’m not thin enough and I am too old. If you put your energy into
those fears, then what you fear will become your reality.”
The daughter of a
psychology teacher and a computer consultant, Etheridge attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music before heading to Los Angeles to pursue a
music career. Signed by Island Records originally to write songs for movies,
she eventually released her self-titled first album in 1988. The disc contained
“Bring Me Some Water,” her first hit and her first Grammy Award nomination.
More honors and albums
followed, including 1993’s Yes I Am,
which many believe referred to Etheridge’s acknowledgement of her lesbianism.
The artist came out publicly earlier that year at the Gay and Lesbian Triangle
Ball that celebrated Bill Clinton’s election victory.
Prior to all of that,
however, Etheridge in 1989 released Brave
and Crazy, her sophomore effort. It’s a title she says still describes her
as she approaches her fifth decade, even if the current definition of those
terms is not quite the same as it was 20 years ago.
“I can’t go out and
pretend I am the drug-sex-and-rock-’n’-roll chick anymore because that’s no
longer my truth,” Etheridge says. “Rock and roll is still about danger and
living outside of society, and I’ve been living that for a long time. But I am
the strongest when I am singing my truth.”
involves commitment to a variety of causes, including gay rights and the
environment. When California
passed Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage, the singer announced that
she would refuse to pay her state taxes as an act of civil disobedience. She
also recorded the song “I Need to Wake Up” for An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s documentary about the pending
The role of music is
important in reaching people, says Etheridge, who counts Peter Gabriel, Paul
Simon, Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading and Bruce Springsteen as her most
significant influences. The artists, she says, have a “fearless commitment to
story” and understand how words and music combine to influence a song’s
capability to touch listeners.
“Music is an amazing
gift to humanity,” she says. “Music effects social change because it bypasses
the head to reach the heart and soul. For any change to occur we have to feel
it as well as understand it.”
hearts and souls is one more way Etheridge is able to sing her own truth.
Melissa Etheridge plays the Riverside Theater at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 11.