Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco
Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco performing at the Ancienne Belgique in 2007
Background information
Birth name Angela Marie DiFranco
Born September 23, 1970 (1970-09-23) (age 41)
Buffalo, New York
Genres Folk rock, indie, alternative
Occupations Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Guitar, bass guitar, tenor guitar, vocals, percussion, piano
Years active 1990–present
Labels Righteous Babe

Ani DiFranco (play /ˈɑːn/; born Angela Maria DiFranco on September 23, 1970) is an American Grammy Award-winning[1] singer, guitarist, poet, and songwriter. She has released more than 20 albums,[2] and is widely considered a feminist icon.[3][4][5]



DiFranco was born in Buffalo, New York,[6] to Elizabeth and Dante DiFranco, who had met while attending MIT.[7][8] She started playing Beatles covers at local bars and busking with her guitar teacher, Michael Meldrum,[9] at the age of nine.

In 1989, DiFranco started her own record company, Righteous Records.[2] Early in her career DiFranco worked with manager Dale Anderson, a writer for the Buffalo News, who started another record label called Hot Wings Records, after the two parted ways, that released similar sounding material. Her self-titled debut album was issued on the label in the winter of 1990. Later, she relocated to New York City, where she took poetry classes at The New School and toured vigorously for the next 15 years, essentially pausing briefly only to record albums.

Righteous Records was renamed Righteous Babe Records in 1994.

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 1997 album Living in Clip.

In 2002 her rendition of Greg Brown's "The Poet Game" appeared on Going Driftless: An Artists' Tribute to Greg Brown.

Her father died early in the summer of 2004.[10] In July 2005, DiFranco developed tendinitis and took a hiatus from touring. Her 2005 tour concluded with an appearance at the FloydFest World Music and Genre Crossover festival in Floyd, Virginia. She returned to touring in late April 2006, including a performance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 28 and a performance at the renowned Calgary Folk Music Festival on July 30, 2006.

In 2005 she collaborated with fellow folk singer Dar Williams on "Comfortably Numb", a Pink Floyd cover song from Williams' album My Better Self.

DiFranco's album Reprieve was released on August 8, 2006. It was previously leaked on iTunes for several hours around July 1, 2006, due to an error saying it was released in 2002.[11] DiFranco performed with Cyndi Lauper on "Sisters of Avalon", a track from Lauper's 2005 collection The Body Acoustic.

On September 11, 2007, she released the first retrospective of her career, titled Canon and for the first time, a collection of poetry in a book titled Verses.

Red Letter Year was released on September 30, 2008. Says DiFranco about the album:

"When I listen to my new record, I hear a very relaxed me, which I think has been absent in a lot of my recorded canon. Now I feel like I’m in a really good place. My partner Mike Napolitano co-produced this record – my guitar and voice have never sounded better, and that’s because of him. I’ve got this great band and crew. And my baby, she teaches me how to just be in my skin, to do less and be more."[12]

DiFranco performed a live webcast from Ex'pression College for Digital Arts[13] on June 24, 2010. She debuted a selection of new material, including the songs "Which Side Are You On?" (a reworking of the Florence Reece song with different lyrics penned by DiFranco), "Life Boat", "Unworry", "Promiscuity", "Splinter", "Amendment", "See See..." and "Hearse".

In 2010, DiFranco sued hip-hop horrorcore artist Necro for sampling her song, "Used to You" in a response track called "The Asshole Anthem" on his DIE! album. Due to the lawsuit, the album was reissued without the track.[14]

She has continued touring through 2011. As of 2008 her backing band consists of Todd Sickafoose on upright bass, Allison Miller on drums, and Mike Dillon on percussion and vibes. DiFranco returned to the Calgary Folk Music Festival in July 2008.

She is also a poet and has been featured on Def Jam's poetry hour.

DiFranco plans to release an album of new material on January 17, 2012, titled "¿Which Side Are You On?". Possible songs include "Promiscuity", "Splinter", "Albacore", "Mariachi", "Unworry", "If Yr Not", "Which Side Are You On", "Life Boat", "A New Bible", "Amendment", "Hearse", "See See See See", "Zoo", and "J". Collaborations with Pete Seeger, Willie Nelson, Ivan Neville, Cyril Neville, Skerik, Adam Levy, Righteous Babe recording artist Anaïs Mitchell, CC Adcock, and a host of New Orleans-based horn players known for their work in such outfits as Galactic, Bonerama, and Rebirth Brass Band have been confirmed.

She and her husband currently reside in New Orleans.[15][16]

Ani DiFranco, RZA, and Steve Albini at
The New Yorker festival in September 2005.


DiFranco identifies herself as bisexual,[17][18] and has written songs about love and sex with women and men. She addressed the controversy about her sexuality with the song "In or Out". In 1998, she married sound engineer Andrew Gilchrist in a Unitarian Universalist service in Canada, overseen by renowned folk singer Utah Phillips.[citation needed] Numerous media sources reported that her fans felt betrayed by her union with a man.[19] DiFranco and Gilchrist divorced five years later.

DiFranco gave birth to a daughter, Petah Lucia DiFranco Napolitano,[20] at her Buffalo home on January 20, 2007. She married the child's father Mike Napolitano,[21] also her regular producer, in 2009.

Critical Reception

DiFranco has been a critical darling for much of her career, if not always a commercial one, with a career album average of 72 on Metacritic[22]. 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."[23]

Starting in 2003, DiFranco was nominated four consecutive times for Best Recording Package at the Grammy Awards, winning in 2004, for Evolve.

On July 21, 2006, DiFranco received the "Woman of Courage Award"[24] at the National Organization for Women (NOW) Conference and Young Feminist Summit in Albany, New York. Past winners have included singer and actress Barbra Streisand and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. DiFranco is one of the first musicians to receive the award, given each year to a woman who has set herself apart by her contributions to the feminist movement.


Guitar style and collaborations

DiFranco's guitar playing is often characterized by a signature staccato style,[25][26] rapid fingerpicking and many 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.

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 musician Prince, who recorded two songs with DiFranco in 1999 ("Providence" on her To the Teeth album, and "I Love U, but I Don't Trust U Anymore" on Prince's Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic album); folk musician and social activist Utah Phillips (on The Past Didn't Go Anywhere in 1996 and Fellow Workers in 1999); 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; a simple walking bass in her 1997 cover of Hal David and Burt Bacharach's "Wishin' and Hopin'"; strings on the 1997 live album Living in Clip and 2004's Knuckle Down; and electronics and synthesisers in 1999's To the Teeth and 2006's Reprieve. Samples from the track "Coming Up" were used by DJ Spooky in his album Live Without Dead Time, produced for AdBusters Magazine in 2003.

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 subcorporate music that gives voice to different communities and their struggle against authority."[27]

Lyrics, politics and religion

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, particularly those of the left wing, some of whom set up fan pages on the web to document DiFranco's career as early as 1994. DiFranco's rapid rise in popularity in the mid-1990s was fueled mostly by personal contact and word of mouth rather than mainstream media.[citation needed]

DiFranco has expressed political views outside of her music. During the 2000 U.S. presidential election, she actively supported and voted for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader.[28][29][30] She supported Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 and 2008 Democratic primaries. Kucinich appeared with her at a number of concerts across the country during both primary seasons.[31][32] DiFranco went on to perform at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Early in her career, DiFranco considered herself an atheist. On the subject of religion, DiFranco has stated:

"Well, I'm not a religious person myself. I'm an atheist. I think religion serves a lot of different purposes in people's lives, and I can recognize the value of that, you know, the value of ceremony, the value of community, or even just having a forum to get together and talk about ideas, about morals – that's a cool concept. But then, of course, institutional religions are so problematic."[33]

Since becoming a mother and releasing her Red Letter Year album in 2009, DiFranco has talked in concert about "finding religion".[citation needed] At concerts she has stated that her song "The Atom" is an "alternative Christian proposal". In "The Atom" she sings ”Oh holy is the atom/ The truly intelligent design/ To which all of evolution/ Is graciously aligned.” In Reno in 2008 prior to singing "The Atom", she said "I've kind of gotten religion lately, I took a sweet religion, one I am sort of familiar with and sprayed a can of patriarchy-off and this is what I came up with."[citation needed]

Label independence

DiFranco was one of the first independent artists to own her own label, which has allowed her a considerable degree of creative freedom over the years, including, for example, providing all instrumentals and vocals and recording the album herself at her home on an analog 8-track reel to reel, and handling much of the artwork and packaging design for her 2004 album Educated Guess.[34] She has referenced this independence from major labels in song more than once, including "The Million You Never Made" (Not A Pretty Girl), which discusses the act of turning down a lucrative contract, "The Next Big Thing" (Not So Soft), which describes an imagined meeting with a label head-hunter who evaluates the singer based on her looks, and "Napoleon" (Dilate), which sympathizes sarcastically with an unnamed friend who did sign with a label.

DiFranco has occasionally joined with Prince in discussing publicly the problems associated with major record companies. Righteous Babe Records employs a number of people in her hometown of Buffalo. In a 1997 open letter to Ms. magazine[35] she expressed displeasure that what she considers a way to ensure her own artistic freedom was seen by others solely in terms of its financial success.


Studio albums


  • 1993 – Like I Said: Songs 1990–91[36]
  • 2007 – Canon

Live albums

  • 1994 – An Acoustic Evening With
  • 1994 – Women in (E)motion (German Import)
  • 1997 – Living in Clip
  • 2002 – So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter
  • 2004 – Atlanta – 10.9.03 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2004 – Sacramento – 10.25.03 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2004 – Portland – 4.7.04 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2005 – Boston – 11.16.03 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2005 – Chicago – 1.17.04 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2005 – Madison – 1.25.04 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2005 – Rome – 11.15.04 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2006 – Carnegie Hall – 4.6.02 (Official Bootleg series – available in stores)
  • 2007 – Boston – 11.10.06 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2008 – Hamburg – 10.18.07 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2009 – Saratoga, CA – 9.18.06 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2009 – Chicago – 9.22.07 (Official Bootleg series)
  • 2010 – Live at Bull Moose Music (Limited edition)[37]



  • 1989 – Demo tape (unreleased)


  • 2002 – Render: Spanning Time with Ani DiFranco
  • 2004 – Trust
  • 2008 – Live at Babeville


  • 2004 – "Self-evident: poesie e disegni"
  • 2007 – Verses

Other contributions

  • 2004 – WFUV: City Folk Live VII – "Bliss Like This"
  • 2006 – Jason Karaban – "Doomed to Make Choices"
  • 2008 – The City That Care Forgot – Contributed backing vocals to the title track of Dr. John's 2008 album.
  • 2009 – Jason Karaban – "Sobriety Kills"
  • 2010 – Anais Mitchell – "Hadestown"
  • 2011 – Twilight Singers – "Blackbird and the Fox"
  • 2011 – Every Mother Counts – "Present/Infant" (Remix)

See also


  1. ^ Evolve Wins the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Recording Package
  2. ^ a b Gene Stout (August 21, 2006). "DiFranco makes time for radical sabbatical: Indie rocker records new album and prepares for motherhood". The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 2008-01-02. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Sound Bites". Daily Texan. September 17, 2002. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  4. ^ Lori Leibovich (March 27, 1998). "Mother Who Think: Hey hey, ho ho, the matriarchy's got to go". Salon. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  5. ^ "Fame hasn't changed the way DiFranco works: Independently". The Sacramento Bee. April 14, 2000. Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ani DiFranco Biography – Discography, Music, Lyrics, Album, CD, Career, Famous Works, and Awards
  8. ^ Dante Americo DiFranco Memorial Page
  9. ^ Notes on the album Open Ended Question
  10. ^ "Still Fighting" Review in Paste. September 2006.
  11. ^ iTunes Mislabeled Release Date as 2002
  12. ^ Shock Records, "Ani DiFranco to Release New Album Red Letters". Retrieved on 08-15-08
  13. ^
  14. ^ Necro: Horror Business
  15. ^ Huff, Quentin B. Ani DiFranco: Red Letter Year. Accessed 18 December 2008.
  16. ^ Farley, Christopher, John. A life in Song. Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2008. Accessed 18 December 2008.
  17. ^ Ani DiFranco, Folksinger and Entrepreneur by Kris Scott Marti, November 28, 2004
  18. ^ Find, by Achy Obejas, The Advocate, December 9, 1997
  19. ^ Biography of Ani DiFranco on
  20. ^ "Introducing Petah Lucia DiFranco Napolitano" Celebrity Baby Blog. July 3, 2007.
  21. ^ Dowd, Kathy Ehrich. "Singer Ani DiFranco Welcomes a Daughter." People. January 23, 2007.
  22. ^ Ani DiFranco on Metacritic. Accessed on October 1, 2011.
  23. ^ Hearey, Owen (2006-07-22). "'Righteous Babe' announces she is pregnant". Buffalo News: pp. D1. Retrieved 2008-05-11. 
  24. ^ Rolling Stone news
  25. ^ Facts about Ani
  26. ^ Ani DiFranco, Living in Clip by Jon Steltenpohl
  27. ^ Rock Troubadours by Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers
  28. ^ article: "Ani DiFranco interview".
  29. ^ Rolling Stone magazine article: "Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith Go Green at NYC Nader Rally – Nader rally draws Vedder, DiFranco to Madison Square Garden"
  30. ^ article: "The Nader Letters".
  31. ^ Brian Orloff (September 16, 2004). "DiFranco Knuckles Down". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  32. ^ Lauren Gitlin (August 27, 2003). "Ani, Willie Support Kucinich". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  33. ^ Rothschild, Matthew (2000-05-09). "Ani DiFranco – folk singer – Interview". The Progressive. Retrieved 2008-04-10. 
  34. ^ Educated guess article
  35. ^ Interview with Ms. Magazine
  36. ^ Retrieved on 06-06-07
  37. ^ Retrieved on 4-21-2010

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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