Melissa Etheridge brings new music as well as a new passion to San Diego’s Pride celebration.
Melissa Etheridge, the famously raspy-voiced rocker, has long dealt with heartache and desire on her albums (everyone knows her ’90s hits like “I’m the Only One” and “Come to My Window”). But on her latest record, The Medicine Show, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter concerns herself with a more botanical passion: marijuana.
Says Etheridge, 58, about her LP’s first single “Faded by Design,” which will likely be a part of her set list when she headlines the San Diego Pride Festival on July 14: “There’s all this fear around cannabis, like, ‘Oh, it’s a gateway drug.’ And [the song] is saying, ‘Hey, don’t worry.’ This is the way I take stress off of me, have a good night’s sleep—these are things that are very needed for a healthy life, and I find it through cannabis.”
Etheridge used pot for medicinal purposes after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Now she is working on a wellness line of marijuana products under the name Etheridge Farms, which includes gingersnap pot cookies and a lavender and cannabis cream (which she claims works wonders on arthritis). Etheridge, who has been a vocal advocate for the legalization of marijuana, says, “There’s a healthy revolution we’re in the midst of, and music and joy is a big part of it—and cannabis!”
Etheridge is no stranger to being on the forefront of a revolution. In 1993, she became a trailblazer for the LGBTQ+ movement when she publicly came out at the Triangle Ball, which was a part of the festivities for President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. “At that time, there was a huge ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ [attitude] in the press,” she says. “It was taboo, and we didn’t talk about it. And I was just like, I can’t go on living like this. So, there I was at the National Press Building, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m a big lesbian—whee!’ I’ve never regretted it. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”
Of course, the LGBTQ+ movement has come a long way in the 26 years since. Etheridge, who now lives with her wife, Linda Wallem (co-creator of Nurse Jackie), in Los Angeles, is keeping her eye on Pete Buttigieg, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., as he runs for president. “I started listening to him and, man, is he smart! And strong. He was in the service. You can’t check off any better boxes. And then he’s got a gorgeous, fun husband. I’m like, wow! This is really going to shake things up.” High praise from a woman who has spent decades doing just that.
Photography by: Lauren Dukoff