Melissa Etheridge is easily the queen of bare-your-heart schlock-rock, a performer whose guitar seems surgically attached to her torso as she grinds through gut-wrenching ballads about the trials and tribulations of love. "Like the Way I Do" and countless other singles never bowed to predominant conventions for female performers, remaining unabashed, blues-tinged Hard Rock driven by her gritty, raspy vocals.
Born on May 29, in Leavenworth, Kansas, she was still only a teenager when she began playing piano and guitar in various covers bands around Kansas. After this grounding she had a more formal training at the Berklee College of Music before playing the club circuit around Boston.
However, her career took off after relocating to Los Angeles, where Island Records chief Chris Blackwell discovered her. Signed in 1986, her first break was writing the music for the movie, Weeds. She had recruited one band to work with her but when this did not work out, she settled for a simple trio with Kevin McCormick on bass and Craig Krampf on drums. The first album was recorded live in the studio and spawned the single, "Bring Me Some Water". A turntable hit, it took some time to pick up sales but ended up a Grammy nominee. Former Iggy Pop sideman Scott Thurston made a guest appearance on the first album and returned for the second, along with U2's Bono. Krampf did not play on the album, as he had been replaced by Maurigio Fritz Lewak.
Etheridge won a Grammy in the best female rock vocal performance in 1992 and 1994, and scored several mainstream hits, such as "Come to My Window", "I'm the Only One" and "I Wanna Come Over". She won the 1996 ASCAP songwriter of the year award, but took a lengthy break from the music business to concentrate on her domestic arrangements.
She returned in 1999 with the intimate, low-key Breakdown, followed by Skin in 2001. In 2003, she appeared on a tribute album to Dolly Parton and shared the stage with her on CMT Crossroads. Etheridge offered the studio album, Lucky, in 2004.
Fearless Love (2010), her triumphant tenth album, expands on the multiple strengths that have made Etheridge one of the most beloved figures in modern rock. It follows her revealing 2007 set The Awakening with a rousing tone at once tough and tender, as only Etheridge can be. It’s that force of presence that has earned her, among other accolades, the 2007 Academy Award for best original song (“I Need to Wake Up” from the documentary An Inconvenient Truth) and two Grammy Awards.
Such autobiographical musing in 4th Street Feeling (2012) deepens Etheridge’s twelfth disc, which also expands her sonic palette. She plays all the guitars, a first, and producers Jacquire King (Kings of Leon) and Steve Booker (Duffy) deftly curb her over-the-top tendencies. “Be Real” is spare and funky, “Enough Rain” raw and folky. The restraint serves her well. She’s realized that sometimes holding a little back can make what’s there hit with all the more force.