He's as skinny as a wire
He's a prophet of a new day, baby
He's a keeper of the fire
Buffy Sainte-Marie (born Beverly Sainte-Marie on February 20, 1941) is Canadian-born American singer-songwriter, guitarist, political activist and educator known for her use of music to promote awareness of issues affecting Native Americans.
Taken from her Cree parents due to a Canadian government policy called the "Sixties Scoop" (wherein Native children were taken from their parents for adoption by white families), Sainte-Marie was adopted by an American couple of white and possible Mi'kmaq ancestry (her mother self-identified as being of Mi'kmaq descent) and raised in Massachusetts and Maine. She took up the piano as a child and began composing songs on guitar by the time she was a teenager. She would attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied philosophy and education and received a bachelorís degree in 1962. Sainte-Marie, meanwhile, began performing her songs in coffeehouses during her college years, and after graduation she moved to New York City to take part in the Greenwich Village folk scene.
Sainte-Marieís breakthrough came in 1963, when critic Robert Shelton of The New York Times praised her as "one of the most promising new talents on the folk scene." This review led to a contract with Vanguard Records and to the release of her first album, Itís My Way! (1964). A record that would contain classic songs that would be considered some the greatest in the folk tradition, such as "Now That The Buffalo's Gone", "The Universal Soldier" and "Cod'ine".
Her music career would unfortunately decline in the 70s, however, as she would champion various political causes such as the American Indian Movement and would become blacklisted by the Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon administrations, which severely limited her ability to receive radio airplay and secure performance engagements. Despite this, she was still critically acclaimed and very active in the Native American community. Having founded the Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education (later renamed the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education) in 1969 and would continue releasing records up until 1976, after which she would go on hiatus in order to take care of her son and star in Sesame Street in order to raise awareness of the presence and vibrancy of Native American cultures in contemporary society.
In 1982, she co-wrote "Up Where We Belong," which won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Song.
Today, she is still performing and recording with her most recent record, Medicine Songs, having been released in 2017.
- It's My Way (1964)
- Many A Mile (1965)
- Little Wheel Spin and Spin (1966)
- Fire & Fleet & Candlelight (1967)
- I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again (1968)
- Illuminations (1969)
- She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina (1971)
- Moonshot (1972)
- Quiet Places (1973)
- Native North American Child: An Odyssey (compilation) (1974)
- Buffy (1974)
- Changing Woman (1975)
- Sweet America (1976)
- Coincidence and Likely Stories (1992)
- Up Where We Belong (1996)
- Running for the Drum (2008)
- Power in the Blood (2015)
- Medicine Songs (2017)
Buffy's music contains the following tropes:
- Addiction Song: "Cod'ine". The narrator was taught at a young age about the dangers of alcohol, but never learned about opiates. Now addicted to codeine, they warn the listener to avoid the dealers and stores who push it.An' my belly is craving, I've got a shakin' in my head
An' I've started heating whether my body said
Steady yourself with the grains of cocaine
An' you'll end up dead or you'll end up insane
- Last Note Nightmare: "Universal Soldier" has a fairly pleasant melody most of the way through, although the antiwar message is obvious. Then it's driven home when the last line ("This is not the way we put an end to war") drops into a minor key.
- Protest Song:
- "Universal Soldier", later covered by Donovan, which is anti-war in general and written about The Vietnam War specifically.
- "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" is about the injustices faced by Native Americans, and mentions some specific issues like the imprisonment of Leonard Peltier, mining on indigenous land, and the murder of Anna Mae Aquash.
- "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" is about the broken treaties and promises made to the Native Americans, who still risk having what little land they have left stolen and developed. She points out that even Germany was allowed to keep their land and culture after their defeat by the Allies, yet indigenous people were not given those rights by their colonizers.
- "Sesame Street" Cred: After guest-starring in one 1975 episode, Buffy was a regular cast member on Sesame Street from 1976 to 1981. Notably, she breast-fed her son in a 1977 episode, in what is believed to be the first depiction of breastfeeding on American tv.
- Shout-Out: "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" is named after the 1970 book by Dee Brown.