I remember the first time I heard any of ani’s music. It blew me away. A friend was visiting me in my tiny furnitureless apartment, and I was so unbelievably poor at the time (yes, it really is possible to live on $8 food/week), but we went to a music store, and I did the incredibly risky thing of buying a CD I’d heard good things about (“good melodies and excellent rhythm”) but hadn’t so much as heard one note by this particular artist.

Ani Difranco. I was surprised to find her CDs at the store, to be honest, since it was not the kind of store to carry artists who don’t get radio time. I was even more surprised to learn that she had several CDs out and I’d have to choose one. How to choose? This was a very weighty decision, since I could afford maybe 2 CDs per year, and I really didn’t want to screw up one of these choices.

I went with her first CD. Self-titled.

It is a stand-out CD, I was to later find out. Just ani and her guitar. Her voice hit me hard, beautiful and haunting and oh so pure. She lost some of the purity in her voice as time went on, but hell, she was 18 when she recorded that first album, and it has been at least 15 years since. She never stops experimenting with her music, and has toured with anything from a full band to just her guitar.

It was love at first listen for me, and that hasn’t changed. She has been something of a hero of mine for all these years, and as I move more into my activist role and educate myself and look at the world with different perspectives, I relate to ani’s lyrics more and more. She was an activist from the get-go, singing about life and subjects that people just do not want to hear. She didn’t have the luxury of being able to ignore the issues, however, she had to live them. That’s why her music hits me so hard.

In “Not a Pretty Girl” she says “I am not an angry girl, but it seems I have everyone fooled. Every time I say something they find hard to hear, they chalk it up to my anger, and never their own fear.” And yeah, boy, do I understand that.

This song tonight is a really mellow version of “32 Flavors”. The meanings are a lot more layered than in “Not a Pretty Girl”, but especially lately that’s what fits me to a T.

P.S. Leanne, thanks. I can’t possibly pay you back for recommending ani to me!