NEW YORK – When she was 9 years old, singer Ani DiFranco's guitar teacher gave her a Beatles songbook. She now has reason to consult it again.
A group that holds a John Lennon benefit concert has selected DiFranco for its John Lennon Real Love Award, and she'll perform his music at the tribute on Dec. 10 in New York City.
DiFranco and her teacher, Michael Meldrum, would use the book to learn the songs together.
“It's a very dear, fond memory of mine,” DiFranco said. “It's been a long road since then. It's cool to be wrapping around full circle to a John Lennon tribute, to be tasked with learning some John Lennon songs.”
She shares a drive toward social activism with Lennon, a point his widow, Yoko Ono, made in a statement announcing the award. Past honorees include Natalie Merchant, Rosanne Cash, Patti Smith and Donovan.
One song DiFranco has been kicking around lately — not in the songbook — is “Woman” from John and Yoko's 1980 album “Double Fantasy.” She's impressed with his bravery in writing the unabashed love song at a time many in the media were critical of their relationship.
“I listen to a song like ‘Woman’ and I could cry from yearning that my man would write me such a song,” she said.
She's also learned the plaintive Beatles plea “Help” and is open to suggestions for her setlist. The concert will be held at Symphony Space, with tickets on sale Friday. Run by the nonprofit Theatre Within, the show benefits a songwriting program free to public schools and workshops for people with cancer and their family members.