Buffy St. Marie
Buffy Sainte-Marie has spent her whole life creating, and her artistry, humanitarian efforts, and Indigenous leadership have made her a unique force in the music industry. In 1969, she made one of the world’s first electronic vocal albums; in 1982 she became the only Indigenous person to win an Oscar; she spent five years on Sesame Street where she became the first woman to breastfeed on national television. She’s been blacklisted and silenced. She’s written pop standards sung and recorded by the likes of Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Donovan, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. She penned “Universal Soldier,” the definitive anti-war anthem of the 20th century. She is an icon who keeps one foot firmly planted on both sides of the North American border, in the unsurrendered territories that comprise Canada and the USA.
Buffy Sainte-Marie will be inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame on April 1st. The induction will take place in Toronto, ON at the 2019 SOCAN Awards. The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame honours and celebrates Canadian songwriters and those who have dedicated their lives to the legacy of music, and works to educate the public about these achievements.
Sainte-Marie’s 1964 peace anthem “Universal Soldier” was inducted to the same hall of fame in 2005. It’s among countless accolades the musician, Indigenous rights activist and educator has received throughout her career. She also won a BAFTA and Golden Globe Award for co-writing the 1982 song “Up Where We Belong,” which was performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.” The 78-year-old performer who has been been crafting songs and playing piano since she was 3- also has several Junos, a Polaris Prize, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Since 1969 she has operated the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education. From 1996 to 2009 Buffy Sainte-Marie focused her time mostly on the Cradleboard Teaching Project, using her multimedia skills to create accurate, enriching core curriculum based in Native American cultural perspectives. She presently works with teacher education departments in several universities, teaching them how to create their own localized indigenous interactive multimedia curriculum in science and other core subjects. The American Indian College Fund presented Buffy with their Lifetime Achievement Award.
There’s still work to be done, and that work is Medicine Songs.
The nineteen songs in this collection are about the environment, alternative conflict resolution, Indigenous realities, greed, and racketeering. It features a brand new politically charged rocker, “The War Racket,” that slinks and pounds as Sainte-Marie sing-speaks wisdom like, “You pretend it’s religion, like there’s no one to blame/ for the dead and impoverished in your little patriot game.” There are new recordings of some of the most insightful songs Buffy’s ever written, like the decades-spanning, rock ’n’ roll reportage “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” or the first powwow rock song, “Starwalker,” an anthemic celebration of Indigenous leadership.
Sainte-Marie doesn’t sugarcoat the truth, nor does she shy away from hard realities, but Medicine Songs is never overwhelming or oppressive. Rather than making us feel smaller, sadder or more cynical, Buffy Sainte-Marie makes us feel stronger and more capable of seeing the world around us clearly. Part rhythmic healing, part trumpeting wakeup call, Medicine Songs is the soundtrack for the resistance.
This is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work. These are songs I’ve been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life.
I’ve found that a song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook. It’s immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, easy to understand – and sometimes you can dance to it. Effective songs are shared, person-to-person, by artists and friends, as opposed to news stories that are marketed by the fellas who may own the town, the media, the company store and the mine. I hope you use these songs, share them, and that they inspire change and your own voice.
It might seem strange that along with the new ones, I re-recorded and updated some of these songs from the past using current technologies and new instrumentations – giving a new life to them from today’s perspective. The thing is, some of these songs were too controversial for radio play when they first came out, so nobody ever heard them, and now is my chance to offer them to new generations of like-minded people dealing with these same concerns. It’s like the play is the same but the actors are new.
I really want this collection of songs to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good. Songs can motivate you and advance your own ideas, encourage and support collaborations and be part of making change globally and at home. They do that for me and I hope this album can be positive and provide thoughts and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own. ~ Buffy