Musicheads Essential Artist: Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco press photo
Ani DiFranco (GMDThree)
Musicheads Essential Artist: Ani DiFranco
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March is Women's History Month. To celebrate, each weekday this month we'll be spotlighting a different artist with special coverage on air and online. For Friday, March 27, we're shining a light on Ani DiFranco.

Ani DiFranco is an inventive folk singer-songwriter, feminist icon, and music business revolutionary who blazed a new trail for independent and do-it-yourself artists.

Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1970, Angela Maria DiFranco started busking around local coffee shops when she was only nine years old. Ani DiFranco graduated from high school early and emancipated herself from her parents when she was 15. She applied that same independent, self-taught streak to her music and her recording career, launching her own label, Righteous Babe Records, at the age of 19.

Ani moved to New York in 1990, the same year she released her debut album, and much of her early material recorded in that era captures the chaos and loneliness and drama of a young artist carving out her own space in the big city. By the mid-1990s, Ani had captured the attention of the larger music business. She appeared on the cover of several magazines and performed on all the major music channels — but famously turned down lucrative recording contracts in order to maintain control of her own image and career.

Through her music, poetry, and prose, Ani has been an outspoken advocate for women's reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, and other social-justice causes — and emerged as an early leader in the DIY movement. Through Righteous Babe, she's fostered the careers of like-minded artists like Andrew Bird and Anaïs Mitchell, and through her impressive catalog of over 20 studio and live albums, she's earned a reputation as a prolific, politically astute, and evocative social commentator.

Ani DiFranco is proof that it is possible to find success while remaining authentic, and that the world can be changed with something as simple as an acoustic guitar and a potent song.

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