Not to take away anything from Janis Joplin (whom this memorial medley honored) or Joss Stone (who opened the set), but to me, this impassioned performance at the 2005 Grammy Awards will always be about Melissa Etheridge’s bald, bold, brave, and brilliant return to the stage – motivated not only by her love and respect for Janis Joplin but also her own desire to prove to herself that she could perform again following her breast cancer diagnosis the previous October.
Her performance later inspired the final verse of India Arie’s lauded 2005 single “I Am Not My Hair.”
Breast cancer and chemotherapy
Took away her crownin’ glory
She promised God if she was to survive
She would enjoy every day of her life, Oh
On national television
Her diamond eyes are sparkling
Bald-headed like a full moon shining
Singing out to the whole wide world like, Hey
Billboard magazine detailed the connection between those lyrics and Etheridge’s performance in an October 2006 article about the song.
According to Arie, while the song’s original idea was rooted in Pink’s decision to do away with her pink locks, the last verse was written after watching Melissa Etheridge’s triumphant performance on the Grammy Awards, where she appeared bald from chemotherapy to treat breast cancer. “Her performance brought tears to my eyes,” Arie says. “At that moment in time, her performance was a juxtaposition of pain and beauty. It symbolized the beauty of strength.”