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Ani DiFranco (born Angela Marie Difranco on September 23, 1970) is a singer, guitarist, and songwriter. She is known as a prolific artist (having released at least one album every year since 1990, with the exception of 2000) with a devoted cult following, and is seen by many as a women's rights and feminist icon.
DiFranco was born in Buffalo, New York to an American Jewish mother and an Italian-American father, both folk music lovers. She started playing Beatles' covers at local bars and busking with her guitar teacher, Michael Meldrum, at the age of nine.
In 1989, at the age of eighteen, DiFranco started her own record company, Righteous Babe Records, with just $50. Ani DiFranco was issued on the label in the winter of 1990. Later on she relocated to New York City, where she took poetry classes at the New School and toured vigorously.
In 1998, she married sound engineer Andrew Gilchrist in a non-civil Unitarian service in Canada, overseen by Unitarian minister Utah Phillips. Numerous media sources reported that her fans felt betrayed by her union with a man. DiFranco and Gilchrist divorced five years later but remain friends.
In 1998, DiFranco's drummer, Andy Stochansky, left the band to pursue a solo career as a singer-songwriter. Their rapport during live shows is showcased on the 1996 album Living In Clip.
DiFranco's father died early in the summer of 2005; however, she continued her summer tour as a tribute to him.
On July 22, 2005, DiFranco developed tendonitis and subsequently took a hiatus from touring. DiFranco had toured almost continuously in the preceding fifteen years, taking brief breaks to record studio albums. Her 2005 tour concluded with an appearance at the FloydFest World Music and Genre Crossover (music) festival in Floyd, Virginia. DiFranco returned to touring in late April 2006, including a performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 28.
DiFranco gave birth to a 7-pound, 8-ounce daughter, Petah Lucia, at her Buffalo home early Saturday morning, January 20, 2007. The child's father is Mike Napolitano, the co-producer of DiFranco's 2006 release Reprieve.
On July 21, 2006, DiFranco received the "Woman of Courage Award" at the National Organization for Women (NOW) Conference and Young Feminist Summit in Albany, NY. Past winners have included singer and actress Barbra Streisand and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. DiFranco is the first musician to receive the award, given each year to a woman who has set herself apart by her contributions to the feminist movement.
DiFranco has been toasted by the Buffalo News as the "Buffalo's leading lady of rock music." The News further said: "Through the Righteous Babe Foundation, DiFranco has backed various grassroots cultural and political organizations, supporting causes ranging from abortion rights to gay visibility."
Since 2003, Ani has been nominated four consecutive times for Best Recording Package at the Grammy Awards, one of which she won, in 46th Grammy Awards (2004), for Evolve.
Musical style and the "folk" label
DiFranco's guitar playing is often characterized by a signature staccato style, rapid fingerpicking and use of a plethora of alternate tunings. She delivers many of her lines in a speaking style notable for its rhythmic variation. Her lyrics, which often include alliteration, metaphor, word play and a more or less gentle irony, have also received praise for their sophistication. The song "Talkin' Mrs. DiFranco Blues," by Dan Bern, strings together some of the most memorable lines from DiFranco's early career for comic effects.
Although DiFranco's music has been classified as both folk rock and alternative rock, she has reached across genres since her earliest albums. DiFranco has collaborated with a wide range of artists including pop musician Prince, folk musician Utah Phillips, funk and soul jazz musician Maceo Parker and rapper Corey Parker. She has used a variety of instruments and styles: brass instrumentation was prevalent in 1998's Little Plastic Castle, strings on the 1997 live album Living in Clip and 2004's Knuckle Down, and electronics and synths in 1999's To the Teeth and DiFranco's latest studio recording, Reprieve.
DiFranco herself noted that "folk music is not an acoustic guitar--that's not where the heart of it is. I use the word 'folk' in reference to punk music and rap music. It's an attitude, it's an awareness of one's heritage, and it's a community. It's sub-corporate music that gives voice to different communities and their struggle against authority."
Lyrics and politics
Although much of DiFranco's material is autobiographical, it is often also strongly political. Many of her songs are concerned with contemporary social issues such as racism, sexism, sexual abuse, homophobia, reproductive rights, poverty, and war. The combination of personal and political is partially responsible for DiFranco's early popularity among politically active college students, some of whom set up fan pages on the World Wide Web to document DiFranco's career as early as 1994. Because DiFranco's rapid rise in popularity in the mid-1990s was fueled mostly by personal contact and word of mouth rather than mainstream press, fans often expressed a feeling of community with each other.
DiFranco has expressed political views outside of her music. During the 2000 U.S. presidential election, she encouraged voting for Ralph Nader in non-battleground states. She supported Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 Democratic primaries.
- The Righteous Babe homepage
- On-Her-Own-dot-net, a community of Ani lovers. Has an active message board. Named after the Righteous Babe Records phone number: 1-800-ON-HER-OWN.
- A collection of Ani DiFranco lyrics collected by a longtime fan
- A streaming Ani radio station
- A blog on DiFranco's shows around the D.C. area, click on the Ani DiFranco label that appears to the right of the blog
- "Marg's" Ani DiFranco page The first DiFranco fanpage, posted in 1994.
- Ani DiFranco at the Internet Movie Database
- Ani at FloydFest 2005
- Frets magazine profile
- Pavement magazine profile
- Ani DiFranco on NPR's All Songs Considered
- Ani DiFranco on NPR's World Cafe
- BBC review of Evolve
- An open letter from Ani DiFranco to Ms. Magazine
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