Melissa Etheridge dedicates her second memoir Talking to My Angels to her son Beckett who passed away from an overdose of Fentanyl in 2020.
The last third of the book focuses on her troubled son who was conceived with the help of David Crosby.
In her one-woman Broadway show Melissa Etheridge: My Window currently running at Circle in the Square Theatre through November 19, Beckett's death hangs over the performance like a shroud.
Late in the second act, the lights go dark as she explains what led up to his death at just 21 years of age.
In the book, Etheridge describes Beckett as a lost child. He enjoyed snowboarding until he broke his ankle. The doctor prescribed him Vicodin for pain. This turned into a habit: Vicodin to OxyContin to heroin to finally Fentanyl. Beckett died during the pandemic in Colorado.
On stage at Circle in the Square, Melissa Etheridge is at home, singing and reciting her story to an adoring crowd. It's an intimate show.
It's not all bad news in the book and play. Etheridge deals with healing, from her breast cancer diagnosis in 2004 to Beckett's opioid addiction. She got better thanks to non-pharmaceuticals like pot. Not only did Etheridge brush off doctors' attempts to feed her painkillers, she canceled chemo after five treatments.
Etheridge describes two druggy events that impacted her life: A mescaline trip in college and an edibles session during which took a "heroic dose." The latter compelled her to seek out other plant medicines like ayahuasca and dig into the drug war.
One bit of repetition in the book and play is this section from both:
It might be useful to take a moment to talk about some of those substances, espcecially as we are entering the psychedelic renaissance and people are studying the possible benefits of healing. We have been on this road before in the '70s. But more than 50 years ago, Richard Nixon declared an uninformed and racist "War on Drugs" by getting Congress to pass the Controlled Substances Act. The non-addictive entheogens were lumped together as Schedule I along with life-destroying substances like heroin, cocaine and meth. But the truth is cannabis, mescaline, psilocybin and MDMA are all basically non-addictive and can be used as healing medicines...
We have a lot to learn about what helps us and what harms us. My own journeys have been profoundly affected.
While the second half of the play is heavy and has a psychedelic section meant to represent an ayahuasca experience, the first act (the play is broken up into two sets or acts) is a joyful ride through Etheridge's Kansas upbringing and awareness that she was different sexually than most of the girls she grew up with.
Born in Leavenworth in 1961, Etheridge had a supportive father, dismissive mother and abusive older sister. Dad bought Melissa her first guitar and drove her around to gigs on weekends as a teenager. She dreamed of being a rock star like Janis Joplin.
After she moved to L.A. in 1982, Etheridge was signed to Island Records by Chris Blackwell who'd discoverd Bob Marley and others. Her career was beginning to take off. Etheridge, who came out in 1993, went through a series of longterm relationships, first with Julie Cypher who she had Beckett and daughter Bailey with, then with Tammy Lynn Michaels, who she had twins with, and finally with Linda Wallem.
On stage at Circle in the Square, Etheridge is at home, singing and reciting her story to an adoring crowd. It's an intimate show. Several times she leaves the stage and walks up the aisle to a smaller riser. At one point, she sits next to a giddy attendee and takes an acoustic guitar solo.
Etheridge has been through a lot. She's one of the first popular female entertainers to openly embrace her gayness. She's had personal struggles with health and the loss of her son. It's quite a night for fans to get up close and personal to this star perfomer. And the book is really good too.
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