Etheridge is a Bruce Springsteen fan, and she has covered his songs "Thunder Road" and "Born to Run" during live shows. She is also a fan of the Dave Matthews Band and has expressed interest in collaborating with them.
In October 2004, Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the 2005 Grammy Awards, she made a return to the stage and, although bald from chemotherapy, performed a tribute to Janis Joplin with the song Piece of My Heart. Etheridge was praised for her performance, which was considered one of the highlights of the show.
On September 10, 2005, Etheridge participated in ReAct Now: Music & Relief, a telethon in support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. ReAct Now: Music & Relief, part of an ongoing effort by MTV, VH1, CMT, seeks to raise funds for the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and America's Second Harvest. Etheridge introduced a new song specially written for the occasion called "Four Days." The a cappella song included themes and images that were on the news during the aftermath of the hurricane. Other charities she supports include the Dream Foundation and Love Our Children USA.
On November 15, 2005, Etheridge appeared on the Tonight Show to perform her song "I Run For Life," which references her own fight with breast cancer and her determination to overcome it, as well as encourages other breast cancer survivors and their families. After her performance, Jay Leno told her, "Thanks for being a fighter, kiddo."
A new studio album "The Awakening" has been scheduled for a September 25, 2007 release, according to her label and reported by www.direct-current.net.
Etheridge has won the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance twice in her career, for the songs "Ain't It Heavy" in 1992, and "Come to My Window" in 1994.
On February 25, 2007, Etheridge received the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "I Need to Wake Up", the theme song to the Al Gore-moderated, Academy Award winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The award was presented by Queen Latifah and John Travolta.
Etheridge is famous as a gay rights activist, having publicly come out as a lesbian during President Bill Clinton's first inauguration in January 1993. She is also a committed advocate for environmental issues and in 2006, she toured the US and Canada using biodiesel.
Etheridge had a long-term partnership with Julie Cypher, which made headlines. During this partnership, Cypher gave birth to two children, Bailey Jean, born February 1997, and Beckett, born November 1998, fathered by sperm donor David Crosby.
In 2000, Cypher began to reconsider her sexuality and on September 19, 2000, Etheridge and Cypher announced they were separating. In 2001, Etheridge documented her breakup with Cypher and other experiences in her memoir The Truth Is... My Life in Love and Music. In the book, Etheridge recounts that she was molested by her sister, Jennifer, over five years as a child, and mentions an alleged affair Cypher had with k.d. lang.
After splitting from Cypher, Etheridge went on to exchange vows in a 2003 commitment ceremony with actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. In October 2004, Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy.
In October 2005, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Etheridge appeared on Dateline NBC with Michaels to discuss her struggle with cancer. By the time of the interview, Etheridge's hair had grown back after being lost during chemotherapy. She said that her partner had been very supportive during her illness. Etheridge also admitted to using medicinal marijuana while she was receiving the chemotherapy. She said that the drug improved her mood and increased her appetite. Chemotherapy patients often have difficulty eating because of severe nausea.
In April 2006, Etheridge and Michaels announced that Michaels was pregnant with twins via an anonymous sperm donor. Michaels gave birth to a son, Miller Steven, and a daughter, Johnnie Rose, on October 17, 2006.