My hero is Ani Difranco. As an aspiring writer, female, and human, I admire her for her music, her humanity, and her business sense. I once read that she had written over one hundred songs by the age of twenty—an impressive feat for any artist. She started her own record label, Righteous Babe Records, in 1990, opting not to wait for offers from the major labels of the day and instead to control her own musical destiny. The decision was a good one and the label has released seventeen of her albums and ten albums by other artists. She has produced many of her own albums and plays most of the instruments herself. She continues to tour the world and be a prolific songwriter.
My admiration goes beyond her music as music, to the messages she uses her music to convey. They are feminist, politically and socially aware, encouraging, honest, and sometimes deeply personal. In “Lost Woman’s Song” (Like I Said, 1993), she writes about the importance of protecting a woman’s reproductive rights. In “Subdivision” (Reckoning, 2001), she writes about the racial divide in her home town of Buffalo, where she decided to return to and locate her business to help contribute to the economically troubled community. She addresses the relocation of many businesses and the outsourcing of jobs in “Cradle and All” (Not a Pretty Girl, 1995). More recently, she has written political poems and songs about September 11th and President Bush’s choices.
More personal to my experiences with her music are the messages she sends out of a world community. When I was a little girl, I discovered two things that made me feel better: words and music. If I was feeling a little sad, the perfect book or song could lift my mood. This still holds true today. Ani Difranco combines two of my great loves, words and music, in such an honest, heartfelt way that listening to her music can make me feel that I am not alone in this world, and at times of difficulties, that is one of the most important things for me to feel. She sings, “To all the people out there tonight/who are comforting themselves/if you should happen to see my light/you can stop and ring my bell” (‘Recoil,’ Knuckle Down, 2005).
Mark Haugh of 1990s band, Caroline’s Spine, once said something I believe to be true and take to heart. “Life is about the betterment of the human condition, stretching one’s own mind, increasing social awareness or even random acts of kindness that spill into the soul of humanity.” That was his reason for playing music and I think it’s the best reason to do anything. Ani Difranco betters my life by adding beautiful sounds and lyrics to it and blazing her own trail, and, in doing so, she is my hero. She dedicates herself to art, helping other artists, raising awareness about political and social issues, and using her music to convey messages of understanding to people who need it.
I think Miss Difranco would laugh if someone told her she was their hero. In her song, "I'm No Heroine," she address the title: "I just write about / what I should have done / I just sing / what I wish I could say / and hope somewhere / some woman hears my music / and it helps her through her day." While she may not want to be called a hero, she might be pleased to hear that what she hopes for is a reality.
Page created on 8/19/2005 12:00:00 AM
Last edited 8/19/2005 12:00:00 AM