Mixtape Monday #4

Hello Human Being.

It’s another Mixtape Monday!


Today’s dedication goes out to Ani Difranco. I’m not entirely sure how I ended up listening to so much Ani this past week, but it seems that every time I do I hear a song that so perfectly fills my heart and soul with joy. This girl, so often under-appreciated, has an amazing gift. She is clever with her words and an absolute genius on the guitar. But beyond that, darling Ani is sweet, humble, and thoughtful. Her musical gifts have been a place of solace for so many people around the world, and her body of work is astounding.  She was one of the first artist’s to create her own record label, Righteous BabeThrough this label and her often pointedly political lyrical statements she has worked as a humanitarian and advocate, using the power of song, and that insanely unique voice to speak on behalf of the causes for which she feels so strongly (which are many). Specifically, she has been a grand voice for the LGBTQ community and her songs a place of solace for the lost and broken-hearted. She is also a mother of two, a resident of one of the greatest cities in the world (New Orleans, Lousiana), and a woman of spirit so free, that she stands as a role model for those of us who are still seeking to find our own voice. In short, I love this woman!

anidifranco002

Ani’s work spans more than 20 years, and more than 20 albums (17 of which are solo studio albums). Getting to know her work can take some time, but the thing I think I love most, is if you give her a chance, you will find a song that speaks to your heart. The first song I’ve chosen to share is one that I feel epitomizes her work quite well. The song is called “Recoil,” from her album Knuckle Down (released in 2005). This song is about loneliness, and togetherness, and mourning for what was. It’s about how we all live our lives with hope, yet also a deep sense of regret and longing. Specifically, I think this song goes straight to the nature of Ani, a woman who reaches out to others, a woman who has faced struggle and heartache, and in essence this song says, “You’re lonely. I’ve been there too. Please reach out for me as I reach out for you. We can pass the time together.” So utterly simple, and yet sometimes we all need that little beacon of light in the darkness.

“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
I’m just sittin’ here in this sty, strewn with half written songs
Taking one breath at a time nothin’ much going on, nothin’ much going on”

This song really illustrates a very distinct part of the human condition; one in which we find ourselves drawing inward, while simultaneously feeling the need to reach outward. It’s about feeling low, yet having hope, and about giving of time when you feel you’ve got nothing else left to give.

For me, this song is a great pre-cursor to my next post, in which I will be talking about the transitions we go through when our relationships end or change, when we have to break old habits and sit with the discomfort of a sometimes slower and less social place; it’s about finding solace within ourselves; it’s about letting go, but not giving up; it’s about meeting your regrets at the door, recognizing that we all have them, that we all waste time, that we all wish for something more.

This song was also written shortly after Ani’s father’s death (from what I understand) and she very pointedly describes her regrets regarding her relationship with him, and her inability to be there for him when he became ill. I relate to this very well, having lost my grandmother, who was many miles away and suffering from dementia before passing at the grand old age of 97.

Recoil

Come home and my guitar has nothin’ to say to me
I recoil from all my friends and then I’m in misery
Been so long since I’ve been held really since I was his
Probably just need to be held that’s probably all it is

Course, then I think of my dad who time travels mostly now
Back to when he was free and holding out hope somehow
Who sits all day in a line of wheelchairs against a wall
Inventing ways to play out time like us all, like us all

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
I’m just sittin’ here in this sty, strewn with half written songs
Taking one breath at a time nothin’ much going on, nothin’ much going on

Little flashing zero on my answering machine
Rats scratching at my brain, brain shuffling its feet
Yes, I have my father’s heart it may or may not keep on trying
Can’t really tell you what it is keeps me this side of that dark line

But I’m not there to take care of him and I’m not here to take care of me
I’m going outside to watch the house burn down across the street
I’m going outside to watch the house burn down across the street

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
I’m just sittin’ here in this sty, strewn with half written songs
Taking one breath at a time nothin’ much going on, nothin’ much going on


The next song I’ve chosen, sort of goes along with the first. The song is called “Virtue” from her album Up Up Up Up Up Up (released in 1999). This song is about being a loner, about perspective, and about feeling at odds with the world. But it is also about having one true love, one person who really, really gets you. Really, that’s all anyone needs. For me, this song has been mostly on repeat, sharing play time with Recoil. I feel empowered when I hear it, because I am working to gain a little more comfort in this place. Funny, how this position I’ve recently found myself in, more isolated, with more time on my hands, is distantly familiar. Sometimes I think people move with the tide of social norms to a point where they lose themselves. This is what happened to me. I wanted so badly to be accepted, and thought wrongly that this meant I needed to be surrounded by people all the time, that I had to be the life of the party, that I had to keep up with the “it girls”. For awhile this worked; I was in, I was accepted, but by all the wrong people, and pretense reigned supreme. I was feeling inauthentic, underwhelmed, and jaded. I was alone, even when I was surrounded by my “friends”. And I’m learning, that’s really not what I need in my life right now. As Ani says, I’m more like a cat, and I’m better off with myself, than with people that tax my being and encourage me to be someone I am not. I’m remembering how much I used to enjoy my lazy days, spent mostly alone, or with a few like-minded people. I am remembering that I used to have a lot of hobbies, that were fulfilling, creative, and engaging. I am remembering that I am actually quite o.k. with being mostly alone.

Virtue

Virtue is relative at best
There’s nothing worse than a sunset
When you’re driving due west
And I’m afraid that my love

Is gonna come up short there is no there there
I guess I’m scared
‘Cuz I want to have good news to report
Every time I come up for air

Now I’m cruising through a chroma key blue sky
And I know that in an hour or three
The sun is gonna be in my eyes
And I know that sometimes all I can see

Is how I feel like the whole world is on the other side
Of a dirty windshield
And I’m tryin’ to see through the glare
Yes, I’m struggling just to see what’s there

The one person who really knows me best
Says I’m like a cat
Yeah, the kind of cat that you just can’t pick up
And throw into your lap

No, the kind that doesn’t mind being held
Only when it’s her idea
Yeah, the kind that feels what she decides to feel
When she is good and ready to feel it

And now I am prowling through the backyard
And I am hiding under the car
I have gotten out of everything
I’ve gotten into so far

I eat when I am hungry
And I travel alone
And just outside the glow of the house
Is where I feel most at home

But in the window you sometimes appear
And your music is faint in my ears

Ani DiFranco 2007

(Note the cat in the background- I don’t know if this image was taken with this song in mind, but if not it sure is a happy coincidence)


The last track I’d like to share, is one of the first songs I’d ever heard from Ani, one that sent me scrambling to discover everything she’d ever released before. You see when I heard this track, back around 1997, it was quite an anthem for feminist rebellion, but more subtle than some of her tracks, like Swan Dive. The song is called “Not a Pretty Girl” from her album by the same name (released in 1995). This song highlights female angst, a woman’s place in society, and defying social roles to find yourself. This song, just hits me right in the heart and the gut and leaves me pondering all the ways that I’ve felt subjected to the negative consequences of tradition, culture, social and sexual roles. This song is just magical and I think that EVERY girl needs to hear it, to sit with the lyrics, and to think about what it means to be a “pretty girl”, and also what it means to be MORE than just a pretty girl. Because really we are all, each and every one of us equal parts pretty, ugly, and everything in between

Not a Pretty Girl

I am not a pretty girl, that is not what I do
I ain’t no damsel in distress and I don’t need to be rescued
So, so put me down, punk, wouldn’t you prefer a maiden fair?
Isn’t there a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere?

I am not an angry girl but it seems like I’ve got everyone fooled
Every time I say something they find hard to hear
They chalk it up to my anger and never to their own fear
And imagine you’re a girl just trying to finally come clean
Knowing full well they’d prefer you were dirty and smiling
And I am sorry but I am not a maiden fair
And I am not a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere

And generally my generation wouldn’t be caught dead
Working for the man and generally I agree with them
Trouble is you gotta have yourself an alternate plan
And I have earned my disillusionment, I have been working all of my life
And I am a patriot, I have been fighting the good fight

And what if there are no damsels in distress
What if I knew that and I called your bluff
Don’t you think every kitten figures out how to get down
Whether or not you ever show up?

I am not a pretty girl
I don’t really want to be a pretty girl
I want to be more than a pretty girl

anidifranco001

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