Melissa Etheridge triumphantly survived cancer. And now she's
back with an impressive greatest hits album. Here's her take
on facing your demons and finding true happiness.
"How are you? That's how people greet me now and I keep
forgetting that they don't want just an 'oh, I'm fine, thanks'
answer, they want details."
Melissa Etheridge, the two-time Grammy-winning, million-selling
rock and roll singer/songwriter and internationally renowned
"out" lesbian celebrity, is laughing on the line from
her Los Angeles home. "So, to answer that, I'm completely
cancer free. I'm 100 percent back now; back from the treatments
that wiped me out. That all started a year ago and I'm much
She certainly sounds it. Her show-stopping performance back
in February on the 2005 Grammy Awards, when Etheridge - her
head still shaved bald following the chemotherapy treatments
she received to fend off breast cancer - performed the classic
barn-burner "Piece of My Heart" as part of a Janis
Joplin tribute, focused worldwide attention on the veteran rocker.
Suddenly, she was on the front page of every newspaper, with
praise pouring in from all sides acknowledging her bravery in
facing her cancer openly, and lauding her triumphant return
to the stage. The Grammy buzz also created the perfect opportunity
for the artist to take stock in her career and put together
a greatest hits record.
Entitled "Greatest Hits The Road Less Traveled" (Island
Records/Universal Music Enterprises) this 17-song collection
contains Etheridge's biggest hits ("Come to My Window,"
"I Want to Come Over") some of her personal favorites,
brand new songs and some amazing covers, including her take
on the Tom Petty track "Refugee" and the aforementioned
Joplin scorcher "Piece of My Heart."
Happier than ever these days, Etheridge shares her life these
days with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels (the two were wed in a
marriage ceremony two years ago) and the two children, son Becket,
6, and daughter Bailey, 8, of whom she shares custody. Luckily
for Etheridge, and for the rest of us who are fans, these days
she can focus on the positive in her music - and her life. That
optimism led her onto that Grammy stage back in February.
"At that moment," Etheridge says, "I was thinking,
'I just hope I make it to the end of the song.' It was all so
intensely happening in that moment. I was happy and excited
- thrilled to be doing it because I'd been lying on my back
for months, in misery. So it was like stepping back into my
life in a big, big way. I was just praying that no one would
laugh at me!"
No one did. In fact, soon Etheridge's phone was ringing off
the hook, for all the right reasons. "Before all of this,
a big company would never get within 100 feet of me when it
came to ad campaigns, or anything like that," explains
Etheridge. "But after the Grammys, it's as if the cancer
thing trumped the gay issue. Ford called, and then Safeway and
Kimberly-Clark - and I think there's even a Bath & Body
Works thing going on. It's all of a sudden okay to love a gay
person now, which is fine. I'm all for it."
Thusly, on the heels of the Oct. 4 release of her greatest hits
album, Etheridge has been appearing all over as a spokesperson
for breast cancer awareness. On Oct. 18, Breast Cancer Awareness
Day, Etheridge appeared on Lifetime Television in the special,
"WomenRock! Our Journey with Melissa Etheridge," a
program featuring the artist performing and sharing details
about her own experience with the disease.
Throughout October and beyond, the annual Susan G. Komen Foundation
Race for the Cure events will ring with the sound of Etheridge's
new single, "I Run for Life," which was written at
the behest of Race for the Cure co-sponsor Ford. Record royalties
from the song will go to breast cancer charities.
Etheridge will also be featured in a print advertising/breast
cancer awareness campaign for Ford, as well as Kimberly-Clark's
Health, Home and Hope campaign which will be prominent in Safeway
and Vons grocery stores, also raising money and awareness for
breast cancer charities. "How fun is that?" laughs
Etheridge proudly. "People everywhere will see big old
gay me when they check out at the supermarket!"
According to the star, the reason for this newfound adulation
she's receiving is simple. "I think people, no matter what,
appreciate truth," she explains. "They appreciate
it and honor it. I've lived my life in such a way that I think
I've earned this priceless thing, which is respect. So when
I got up and did the Grammy thing, I just stood up there saying,
"Yes, I've had cancer. I'm bald. Whatever!' And I think
that truth won out over anyone's feelings of 'Oooh, she's a
Refreshingly, Etheridge has plenty of other options for getting
her music and message out there. And even now, after all these
years, she's still a vocal believer in the value and important
need for gay people to come out of the closet.
"Coming out is the most important thing, because it gives
us the strongest thing we have: visibility," Etheridge
states firmly. "I know I live in a bubble, living in Hollywood
and being famous; I have no trouble at all. But gay people are
rising to their place in society, and yes, we're going to have
people mad at us for having that place, and we're dealing with
"But come on, 10 years ago, if I'd told you that we'd be
voting on whether or not we're going to be able to get married
in 11 states...and okay, we lost all 11 of those states, but
people still had to read those words 'gay and lesbian' over
and over, and hear about it over and over. And that's neutralizing
and naturalizing. And it helps people learn to deal. It helps
people realize, 'You know, those gay guys down the street with
their two kids - they're really just fine. They have the same
problems I do.'"
And these days, Etheridge is very happy to find herself in a
place where she has fewer problems than ever. She's got a new
record out, she's survived cancer and she's got a wife and kids
whom she adores.
"Tammy and the kids are the light of my life," she
says warmly. "They're everything that makes sense and that
is good in the world."
And Etheridge also recognizes, having been through leaner times
and rough relationships, how truly valuable that is. When asked
what message she'd tell herself if she were able to travel back
in time 10 years, the rock 'n roll royal pauses, then laughs
a wry laugh. "Whoa
There's a lot of things I'd tell
myself 10 years ago. I'd tell myself to just hang on; that life's
going to make a lot more sense, and it's going to get a lot
"Greatest Hits: The Road Less Traveled" is in stores
now. The Deluxe Edition includes the original CD plus a DVD
featuring an exclusive new interview with Etheridge, rare videos,
television performances and more.