Ani DiFranco Biography
Ani DiFranco (IPA: ?-ni) (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 feminist icon.
Born in Buffalo, New York to an American Jewish mother and an Italian-American father, DiFranco, the daughter of two folk music loving parents, started playing Beatles' covers at local bars and busking with her guitar teacher, Michael Meldrum, at the age of nine, and built her career from there.
In 1989, at the age of eighteen, DiFranco started her own record company, Righteous Babe Records, with just $50, and recorded Ani DiFranco, issued 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.
She is openly bisexual, as described in her song "In Or Out", and, in 1998, married sound engineer Andrew Gilchrist in a non-civic Unitarian service in Canada, overseen by Unitarian minister Utah Phillips. They divorced five years later but remain friends. Ms. DiFranco is a lesbian icon, though after her marriage numerous media sources reported that her fans felt betrayed by her union with a man.
DiFranco took time off from touring, due to tendonitis, halfway through 2005, but has begun touring again in spring of 2006.
DiFranco's father died early in the summer of 2005; however, she continued her summer tour as a tribute to him.
On July 21, 2006, Ani 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 Barbara 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.
In receiving the award, she surprised the audience by disclosing she was 12 weeks pregnant. DiFranco said the father of the child-to-be is Mike Napolitano , the co-producer of her 2006 release Reprieve. In response to audience questions at a Sep 22nd concert in San Diego, DiFranco revealed that she is expecting a girl.
In recent years, rather than allowing the closed but still beautiful Asbury Delaware United Methodist Church in Buffalo, New York, to be demolished, DiFranco purchased it, paid for its restoration, and converted it into an entertainment venue, named The Church, with 1,200-seat concert hall, along with a recording studio, and now home to Righteous Babe records.
Toasted by no less than the Buffalo News as the "Buffalo's leading lady of rock music," The News said: "Through the Righteous Babe Foundation, DiFranco has backed various grassroots cultural and political organizations, supporting causes ranging from abortion rights to gay visibility."
"Ani has had a successful career. She had a choice to invest in the stock market or invest in her community, and she chose to invest in her community," her manager, Scot Fisher, told The Buffalo News in January, 2006.
Much of DiFranco's material is autobiographical, in the personal lyric tradition of the singer-songwriter. Much of her material is also strongly political, concerned with contemporary social issues such as racism, sexism, sexual abuse, homophobia, reproductive rights, poverty, and war. The combination of these two characteristics is partially responsible for the early popularity DiFranco enjoyed among politically active college students, some of whom set up fan pages on the web to document her career as early as 1994. Because of DiFranco's rapid rise in popularity in the mid-1990s—a rise that, with little mainstream press, was fueled by personal contact and word of mouth—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 success of her record label, Righteous Babe Records (RBR), is also notable. Ownership of RBR allows DiFranco a great deal of artistic freedom, including the ability to release as much, and as often, as she has, and to include controversial material and language. References to her independence from major labels appear occasionally in her songs, most notably in "The Million You Never Made," which discusses the act of turning down a lucrative contract, "The Next Big Thing", a song from the early Not So Soft album which describes an imagined meeting with a label headhunter who evaluates the singer based on her looks, and "Napoleon," on the album Dilate, which sympathises sarcastically with an unnamed friend who did sign with a label. A longstanding rumor, apparently begun by Spin Magazine in 1997, suggests that the friend addressed in "Napoleon" is the musician Suzanne Vega; Vega herself has denied this. Ani herself has denied that the song is about Vega.
DiFranco has occasionally joined with Prince in discussing publicly the problems associated with major record companies. DiFranco is proud of her label, which employs a number of people in her hometown of Buffalo. In a 1997 open letter to Ms. magazine she expressed displeasure that what she sees as a way to ensure her own artistic freedom, was seen by others solely in terms of its financial success.