There are two sides of me. There’s a side of me that is a true rebel, and then another side of me, that is my father’s daughter. And so this album, it doesn’t mean necessarily in a particular direction which is why the album title is Joanne.
Joanne died when she was 19. I called my album Joanne because Joanne’s presence was always important to me. The best way to describe my relationship with her is that it’s like the relationship someone might have with an angel or a spirit guide or whatever you think of as a higher power. Joanne died of lupus, which is an autoimmune disease, and from what I know of the history of my family, one of the reasons her disease may have worsened was that she was assaulted when she was in college. She was sexually assaulted and groped. Joanne passed away in 1974, 12 years before I was born, so I learned about her mostly through stories and pictures. But I also learned about her through the rage of my father and watching him pour a drink every night and through seeing my grandparents cry at the Christmas dinner table when it was clear that there was an empty seat they wanted to fill.
To me, Joanne was my hope and my faith. I always felt that I had somebody looking out for me, and I looked to her to protect me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also really looked to her to help understand myself. I thought about Joanne as I was watching the news during the election about the scandal surrounding the Access Hollywood tape. Here we were, in 2016, and the fact that the sort of language that was being used to talk about women was everywhere—on TV, in politics—was eye-opening. I felt depressed and hurt by it because that’s what that kind of language does. Then I watched our incredible first lady, Michelle Obama, talk in New Hampshire about how hurt she felt seeing it too. She talked about how women are often afraid to say anything because we’re worried that we will appear weak—that we’ll be told we’re being over-the-top, dramatic, emotional. But we’re not. We’re fighting for our lives.