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Ani DiFranco

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Ani DiFranco (pronounced "AHH-nee") (born September 23, 1970) is a progressive singer, guitarist, and songwriter.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Ani started playing gigs at the age of nine and built her career from there.

In 1989, at the age of eighteen, Ani 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 and toured vigorously.

She is openly bisexual and, in 1998, married sound engineer Andrew Gilchrist. They separated five years later but remain friends. Some of DiFranco's more recent songs speak of the idea of having to choose between one life and another. In general, much of DiFranco's material is autobiographical, keeping with 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 and 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, mostly unaccompanied by mainstream press, was fueled by personal contact and word of mouth -- fans often expressed a feeling of community with each other. As DiFranco has become more known, the extent to which fans may identify with such a community has lessened.

Perhaps because of her popularity in progressive circles, DiFranco has also endorsed explicit political positions outside of her music. During the 2000 U.S. Presidential election, she endorsed the idea of voting for Ralph Nader in non-"battleground" states. She also supported democratic canidate Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 Primaries.

Many have noted a signature staccato style to DiFranco's work. Another important aspect is her display of virtuosity in rapid fingerpicking and general skill on the acoustic guitar — notably in the song "Out of Range", appearing on the eponymous album. Her lyrics have also received praise for their sophistication: alliteration (and wordplay in general) is an important component, and a more-or-less gentle irony fills many of her songs -- especially those that deal with the intersection of the personal and political. She is known for her descriptive use of metaphors. She delivers many of her lines in a "speaking" style notable for its rhythmic variation. The song "Talkin' Ani DiFranco's Mom Blues," a talking blues song by Dan Bern, strings together some of the most memorable lines from DiFranco's early career for comic effect.

DiFranco's music has been classified as folk rock and alternative rock, but since her earlier albums she has developed her reach across genres, having collaborated with a wide range of artists including the pop musician Prince, the folk musician Utah Phillips, and rapper Corey Parker. In various songs and albums, she has brought in the use of a variety of instruments as well as styles -- from brass, notably in 1998's Little Plastic Castle, and strings, particularly noticeable on the live album Living in Clip and her latest studio recording, Knuckle Down.

DiFranco is a prolific songwriter, having produced three studio albums of new material and one remix album just in 1999 (see list below). She has released at least one album every year since 1990, except in 2000 (perhaps because she released three albums in 1999 and a double album in 2001.)

She is notable also for the success of her record label, Righteous Babe Records (RBR). 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, "Napoleon," on the album Dilate, which sympathises sarcastically with an unnamed friend (believed by some to be Suzanne Vega) who did sign with a label, and "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. DiFranco has occasionally joined with Prince in discussing publicly the problems associated with major record companies. While 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 [1] (http://www.columbia.edu/~marg/ani/letter.html) she expressed displeasure at what she sees as a way to ensure her own artistic freedom was seen solely in terms of its financial success.

Educated Guess, one of her newest albums, was released on January 20, 2004. According to the Righteous Babe website, "not since the release of her second album back in 1991 has Ani been quite as much a solo act as she is on Educated Guess."[2] (http://www.righteousbabe.com/ani/educated_guess/more_info.asp) The only other person involved in the record was Greg Calbi, who mastered it; Ani DiFranco did all the performance and recording herself at home, and was involved in much of the artwork and design for the packaging.

A new album, Knuckle Down, was released on January 25, 2005.

DiFranco's former drummer, Andy Stochansky, has pursued a solo career as a singer-songwriter since leaving DiFranco's band.

Discography

Ani has released three EPs. `'Swing Set features a live cover of Bob Dylan's song Hurricane, a cover of Woodie Guthrie's "Do Re Mi" and Phil Och's "When I'm Gone." The EP "More Joy, Less Shame" features a live version of "Both Hands" from a concert in Austin and a version of "Joyful Girl" recorded with the Buffalo Philharmonic. "Little Plastic Remixes" — available only from the Righteous Babe Web site — includes remixes of "Little Plastic Castle."

In addition, Ani is in the process of releasing a series of "official" bootleg recordings documenting her live shows that are only available on her Web site.

External links

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