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Ani DiFranco

AKA: Angela M. DiFranco, Angela Maria DiFranco, and Angela DiFranco

About Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco is a ‘fiercly independent’ Grammy-winning singer-songwriter, label owner and ‘proudly bisexual’ activist from Buffalo, New York. She is known for her unwavering loyalty to smaller, local companies to produce and distribute her (and her label’s) product. DiFranco has consistently achieved international success despite having no charting singles. Prince once called her “one of the finest guitarists ever”.

Before reaching the age of ten, DiFranco was busking at a local farmers' market. At fifteen, she was emancipated from her mother and began regularly performing in clubs and coffee houses. At eighteen, she moved to New York City and, with a borrowed $1500, made a demo and quickly sold out of all 300 copies.

In 1988, DiFranco and Scot Fisher (originally a friend of her roomate) founded the Righteous Babe record label together. By 1995, DiFranco had self-released six albums and developed a loyal following, including a considerable number of lesbians who identified with her feminist lyrics, earning her the label ‘a queer icon for Generation X’. During this time, DiFranco almost signed with an established record label, but backed out after reading the contract. In 1995, DiFranco’s romantic relationship with Fisher ended, and she became involved with her sound technician Andrew Gilchrist.

In 1996, DiFranco released her most critically-acclaimed album Dilate – her first to chart on the Billboard 200. That year, her devotion to Buffalo earned her a congratulatory proclamation from the city. DiFranco received her first of several Grammy nominations for the song “Shy” in 1997. That same year when DiFranco was asked by her friend, director PJ Hogan, to record a Burt Bacharach song about ‘what a woman needs to do to attract and keep a man’ for the Julia Roberts film My Best Friend’s Wedding, she accepted, telling the LA Times:

I guess the irony appealed to my sick sense of humor. It’s important for all of us to be able to poke fun at ourselves. People have always tried to rob me of my sense of humor. There’s a perception for some that I’m kind of a dire, dogmatic person.

In early 1998, Alana Davis' cover of DiFranco’s “32 Flavors” was a top 40 hit. That same year, DiFranco’s own recording of it was licensed to the NFL, for which she recieved considerable backlash. She received more backlash when she married Gilchrist that year, with some fans accusing her of ‘gender and sexual treason’. Her albums, however, continued to sell very well with 1998’s Little Plastic Castle reaching #22 on the Billboard 200, her highest-charting to date, and 1999’s up up up up up up reaching #29. Annual sales of her albums had more than tripled from 1995-1999 and her concert revenue was in the millions, placing her in the top 50 US touring acts.

Between 2001-2004, Difranco scored four consecutive chart-toppers on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart, including 2003’s Grammy-winning Evolve (for its packaging). Despite the continued chart success of her albums, however, the industry was changing and the volume of product sold was actually doing down. Sales of Righteous Babe albums dropped to half between 1999-2003. In 2003, DiFranco divorced Gilchrist. She married producer Mike Napolitano in 2007. Her 2012 album Which Side Are You On is her last to peak in the top half of the Billboard 200.

In 2013, DiFranco had to cancel a songwriting workshop for women that was scheduled to happen on a plantation she later learned was known for its history of slavery, and was owned by a billionaire who supported of a political party with an anti-gay, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion agenda. A lengthy statement posted on her website was called a ‘faux-pology’, with its combative statements like “I obviously underestimated the power of an evocatively symbolic place to trigger collective and individual pain” and “Is it possible to ensure that no ‘bad’ person will ever profit in any way from my existence or my work?”

Unabated, DiFranco has continued her activism, hosting all-women’s music showcases, denouncing patriarchy, and promoting women in politics, environmentalism and anti-war stances. Her most recent albums, Allergic To Water and Binary reached #155 and #192 on the Billboard 200 respectively.