Born on this day in 1961, singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge grew up in Leavenworth, Kansas. A self-taught musician, she started playing the guitar at eight.
"I grew up in the Midwest," she told the L.A. Times, "where they only played Bob Seger and Springsteen and Mellencamp, that was it."
"That was how I related to my world. When I'd feel like I wanted to get out of the town, I'd play Born to Run. So when I started to sing it myself and say I want to get out of here, that was the music that I made."
She broke into the male-dominated genre of hard rock in 1988 with the self-titled Melissa Etheridge, an album in which her raspy, earthy voice was compared to Janis Joplin. Called the female Rod Stewart, she hit the big time in 1993 with the album Yes I Am.
The openly gay artist celebrated her contentment with life, "Coming out was a real revelation for me in conquering your fears and finding enormous amounts of strength. There's nothing like owning who you are, saying this is what I am."
In 2004, Etheridge underwent chemotherapy and a lumpectomy for breast cancer and was called courageous for arriving bald at the 2005 Grammy Awards ceremony. "I was just living my truth," she said. "People said I was courageous for saying I'm gay. I guess being truthful today passes as courageous."
Call it courage or truth, she is a survivor. With each new song, Etheridge has matured artistically and shared her joy of creating and performing.
"I love to rock," she explained on her website. "When I'm singing, and I've got people in the audience throwing their head back and their hands up, I want to do that as long as I can."
Celebrate EXACTLY who you are.