Ani DiFranco Biography

Activist, Songwriter, Guitarist, Activist (1970–)
Grammy Award-winning folk singer and songwriter Ani DiFranco's eclectic musical style and politically charged lyrics have made her both a feminist and rock icon.


Ani DiFranco was born in Buffalo, New York in 1970. She learned how to play guitar as a child, and played her first show at age 9. DiFranco formed a record label when she was 19, and released her first album at 20. Her politically charged lyrics and eclectic style garnered fans, and she released albums and toured aggressively. DiFranco is also an activist and feminist, and lives with her family in New Orleans.

Early Life

Angela Maria DiFranco was born in Buffalo, New York on September 23, 1970. She started playing guitar as a child, and played her first gigs at the age of 9, alongside her guitar teacher.

When DiFranco was 15, her mother moved to California. Rather than accompany her, DiFranco petitioned for emancipation and stayed behind in Buffalo, living on her own. At age 16, she moved to New York City. She later wrote the song "Emancipated Minor" about her experience.

Musical Career

DiFranco founded her own record label, Righteous Records (later called Righteous Babe Records), at the tender age of 19. She released her self-titled debut album a year later, in 1990. Following the album's release, DiFranco quickly became popular among college students and gained a reputation through word of mouth. She released new albums about once a year and toured aggressively, building a large and loyal fan base.

Throughout her career, DiFranco has turned down recording deals from major record labels, and, along with artists like Prince, has spoken out about what she perceives to be flaws in the music industry. A 1997 letter that she published in Ms. Magazine asserts that, although people often think owning her own label is about retaining maximum profits, it is really her way of maintaining her artistic freedom and control over her music. 

Although DiFranco refers to herself as a folk singer, she's also frequently categorized as belonging to the alternative-rock genre. Her influences are broad, and her songs often incorporate elements from other musical styles, including punk, funk, classical and electronic. Many of DiFranco's songs are drawn from her personal life and experiences, but equally as often, her lyrics are feminist and political. Her music has tackled topics like war, corporate greed, sexual assault and gun control.

DiFranco has been nominated for a Grammy Award for best recording package four times. She won a Grammy for 2003's Evolve.

In 2007, DiFranco published Verses, a book of poems and paintings.


In addition to writing songs with a political message, DiFranco frequently supports issues that she believes in. In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, she encouraged voters not living in swing states to cast their ballots for Ralph Nader, and she publicly supported Dennis Kucinich in the 2004 Democratic primary election. She also founded the Righteous Babe Foundation, which has supported various causes, including aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina, abortion rights, gay equality, and the revitalization of downtown Buffalo.

DiFranco received the Woman of Courage Award at the National Organization of Women Conference in 2006.

Personal Life

DiFranco self-identifies as bisexual, and in her music, she sings about love for both men and women. In 1998, DiFranco married her sound engineer, Andrew Gilchrist, and they divorced in 2003. In 2007, she had a daughter, Petah Lucia DiFranco Napolitano, with Mike Napolitano, whom she married in 2009.

DiFrance and her family live in New Orleans, Louisiana. Righteous Babe Records remains headquartered in downtown Buffalo, New York.

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