Thing is, until Ani DiFranco came along there was a lot I didn’t know. I was raised by a feminist mom who went to Woodstock, worked full-time, and made it clear there weren’t things I couldn’t do just because I was a girl. My dad was a gentle soul who always echoed the empowerment my mother spoke. But before Ani, there was still a lot I just hadn’t owned yet.
Every generation needs their own anthems. Up till that moment, mine had mostly once belonged to my parents. Janice, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell. And then came that guitar. So much intention with every chord, letting us know that no one involved intended to apologize.
Ani represented a new revolution for many of us. From her music, we derived our independence. Not just as teenagers moving steadily toward adulthood, but as girls becoming women who were being told unequivocally that we had every right to claim who we were. No need to apologize.
There was an aggression in the lyrics and music that felt so empowering to girls who (as most girls are) had been reminded all their lives to be quiet and not take up too much space. Ani wasn’t quiet. She owned her space, she grunted and screamed, she swore and made it perfectly clear that she didn’t so much care whether you liked it or not. This thing was happening. End of story.
Ani’s songs weren’t the sort playing on pop radio. Her lyrics were brutal, raw, messy reminders that life twists and turns and often doesn’t look too pretty. There was nothing dressed up about her music. It was as off kilter as I felt in those years of sweeping change and I was grateful for it.
What’s more, Ani didn’t even look like a pop star. She shaved her head or grew out long, tangled dreadlocks. She wore heavy black boots and rooted herself on stage like an ancient tree. Something to be reckoned with and surely not defeated.
Words can not express my delight that, as I have grown and changed, so too has Ani DiFranco in her honest way continued to make music that reflects what life really feels like. Without her influence, I am certain I would have been a different person than I am today. Ani DiFranco, that Righteous Babe, helped me learn to be a woman, unapologetically.