Angela Maria "Ani" DiFranco is an American singer-songwriter. She has released more than 20 albums. DiFranco's music has been classified as folk rock and alternative rock, although it has additional influences from punk, funk, hip hop and jazz. She has released all her albums on her own record label, Righteous Babe, giving her significant creative freedom.
DiFranco supports many social and political movements by performing benefit concerts, appearing on benefit albums and speaking at rallies. Through the Righteous Babe Foundation, DiFranco has backed grassroots cultural and political organizations supporting causes including abortion rights and LGBT visibility. She counts American folk singer and songwriter Pete Seeger among her mentors.
DiFranco was born in Buffalo, New York, on September 23, 1970, the daughter of Elizabeth (Ross) and Dante Americo DiFranco (died 2004), who had met while attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her father was of Italian descent, and her mother was from Montreal. DiFranco started playing Beatles covers at local bars and busking with her guitar teacher, Michael Meldrum, at the age of nine. By 14 she was writing her own songs. She played them at bars and coffee houses throughout her teens. DiFranco graduated from the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts high school at 16 and began attending classes at Buffalo State College. She was living by herself, having moved out of her mother's apartment after she became an emancipated minor when she was 15.
DiFranco started her own record company, Righteous Babe Records, in 1989 at age 19. She released her self-titled debut album in the winter of 1990, shortly after relocating to New York City. There, she took poetry classes at The New School, where she met poet Sekou Sundiata, who was to become a friend and mentor. She toured steadily for the next 15 years, pausing only to record albums. Appearances at Canadian folk festivals and increasingly larger venues in the U.S. reflected her increasing popularity on the North American folk and roots scene. Throughout the early and mid-1990s DiFranco toured solo and also as a duo with Canadian drummer Andy Stochansky.
In September 1995, DiFranco participated in a concert at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland Ohio, inaugurating the opening of the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York City. She later released a CD on Righteous Babe of the concert Til We Outnumber Em featuring artists such as DiFranco, Billy Bragg, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Arlo Guthrie, Indigo Girls, Dave Pirner, Tim Robbins, and Bruce Springsteen with 100 percent of proceeds going to the Woody Guthrie Foundation and Archives and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum educational department.
In 1996, bassist Sara Lee joined the touring group, whose live rapport is showcased on the 1997 album Living in Clip. DiFranco would later release Lee's solo album Make It Beautiful on Righteous Babe. In 1998, Stochansky left to pursue a solo career as a singer-songwriter. A new touring ensemble consisting of Jason Mercer on bass, Julie Wolf on keyboards, and Daren Hahn on drums, augmented at times by a horn section, accompanied DiFranco on tour between 1998 and 2002.
The 1990s were a period of heightened exposure for DiFranco, as she continued playing ever larger venues around the world and attracted international attention of the press, including cover stories in Spin, Ms., and Magnet, among others, as well as appearances on MTV and VH1. Her playfully ironic cover of the Bacharach/David song "Wishin' and Hopin'" appeared under the opening titles of the film My Best Friend's Wedding. She guest starred on a 1998 episode of the Fox sitcom King of the Hill, as the voice of Peggy's feminist guitar teacher, Emily. Beginning in 1999, Righteous Babe Records began releasing albums by other artists including Sara Lee, Sekou Sundiata, Michael Meldrum, Arto Lindsay, Bitch and Animal, That One Guy, Utah Phillips, Hamell on Trial, Andrew Bird, Kurt Swinghammer, Buddy Wakefield, Anaïs Mitchell and Nona Hendryx.
On September 11, 2001, DiFranco was in Manhattan and later penned the poem "Self Evident" about the experience. The poem was featured in the book It's a Free Country: Personal Freedom in America After September 11. The poem's title also became the name of DiFranco's first book of poetry released exclusively in Italy by Minimum Fax. It was later also featured in Verses, a book of her poetry published in the U.S. by Seven Stories press. DiFranco has written and performed many spoken-word pieces throughout her career and was showcased as a poet on the HBO series Def Poetry in 2005.
Since her 2005 release Knuckle Down (co-produced by Joe Henry) DiFranco's touring band and recordings have featured bass player Todd Sickafoose and in turns other musicians such as Allison Miller, Andy Borger, Herlin Riley, and Terence Higgins on drums and Mike Dillon on percussion and vibes.
On September 11, 2007, she released the first retrospective of her career, a two disc compilation entitled Canon and simultaneously a retrospective collection of poetry book Verses. On September 30, 2008, she released Red Letter Year.
In 2009 DiFranco appeared at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden, debuting her revamped version of the 1930s labor anthem "Which Side Are You On?" in a duet with Bruce Cockburn and also duetting with Kris Kristofferson on the folk classic "There's a Hole in the Bucket".
DiFranco released an album on January 17, 2012, Which Side Are You On?. It includes collaborations with Pete Seeger, 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.
On May 7, 2019, DiFranco released a memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream, via Viking Books. It is described as a "coming-of-age story".
In addition, DiFranco also offered a "No Walls" Mixtape, her current take on the songs that inspired the memoir. DiFranco addresses this to her fans. "So here is my mixtape for you, like the kind that I would make you on cassette if it was, like, 1993 and I was really into you. It’s a flight of Ani songs that I took the liberty of revisiting, solo stylie, twenty… (thirty?!) years later, songs that factor (either literally or figuratively) into my memoir, No Walls and the Recurring Dream." In her memoir, DiFranco recounts her early life from a place of hard-won wisdom, combining personal expression, the power of music, feminism, political activism, storytelling, philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and much more into an inspiring whole.
In these frank, honest, passionate, and often funny pages is the tale of one woman's eventful and radical journey to the age of thirty. Ani's coming of age story is defined by her ethos of fierce independence--from being an emancipated minor sleeping in a Buffalo bus station, to unwaveringly building a career through appearances at small clubs and festivals, to releasing her first album at the age of 18, to consciously rejecting the mainstream recording industry and creating her own label, Righteous Babe Records. In these pages, as in life, she never hesitates to challenge established rules and expectations, maintaining a level of artistic integrity that has impressed many and antagonised more than a few. Ani continues to be a major touring and recording artist as well as a celebrated activist and feminist, standing as living proof that you can overcome all personal and societal obstacles to be who you are and to follow your dreams.
2021, the transcendent new album from Ani Di Franco, Revolutionary Love, marks the latest proof of one of her most powerful gifts as an artist: a rare ability to give voice to our deepest frustrations and tensions, on both a personal and political level. Produced by Di Franco and recorded mainly in two whirlwind days at Overdub Lane in Durham, Revolutionary Love more than justifies the mad dash behind its making. Revolutionary Love arrives as an instantly transportive selection of songs. Rooted in her poetic lyricism and ever-commanding vocal work, the album unfolds in an understated yet captivating alchemy of folk and soul and lushly textured jazz-pop.
Di Franco wrote many of the new tracks on the road prior to returning home to New Orleans in February 2020. While the country soon encountered COVID and solitary lives, Di Franco felt the urgent need to collaborate creatively and record. With her activism at the forefront, she recalls, “I felt very strongly that I needed a horse to ride to try to help get out the vote—to get people inspired and get them believing in democracy, believing in each other and in themselves.”
Di Franco headed to Durham NC, where she teamed up with Brad Cook to record Revolutionary Love with an eclectic group of musicians. The lineup included percussionist Brevan Hampden (Hiss Golden Messenger, Milton Suggs), horn/flute player Matt Douglas (The Mountain Goats, Josh Ritter), keyboardist Phil Cook (Megafaun, Shouting Matches), drummer Yan Westerlund (Quetico, Mipso) and Di Franco’s longtime touring band Terence Higgins on percussion and Todd Sickafoose on bass. With many of the performances captured in one or two takes, Revolutionary Love reveals Di Franco’s tremendous gift for seizing the moment of performance and transforming confusion into clarity, pain into perseverance.
Widely considered a feminist icon, Grammy winner Ani Di Franco is the mother of the DIY movement, being one of the first artists to create her own record label in 1990. While she has been known as the “Little Folksinger,” her music has embraced punk, funk, hip hop, jazz, soul, electronica and even more distant sounds. Her collaborators have included everyone from Utah Phillips to legendary R&B saxophonist Maceo Parker to Prince. She has shared stages with Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Kris Kristofferson, Greg Brown, Billy Bragg, Michael Franti, Chuck D., and many more.
New Album Available Now: righteousbabe.ffm.to/revolutionary-love.owe
Memoir Avalable Now: righteousbabe.com/blogs/news/anis-memoir-available