Birth name Beverly Sainte-Marie
Born August 2, 1941 (1941-20-02) (age 67)
Origin Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada
Genre(s) Folk, Rock, Country, Electronic
Occupation(s) Singer-Songwriter, Record Producer, Visual Artist, Educator, Social Activist
Instrument(s) Guitar, Vocals, Mouthbow
Years active 1960–present (singer)
Label(s) Vanguard Records, Angel Records, Capitol, Island,
Website Official website
Buffy Sainte-Marie (born Beverly Sainte-Marie, February 20, 1941 or this date in 1942) is an Academy Award-winning Canadian First Nations musician, composer, visual artist, pacifist, educator and social activist.
Buffy Sainte-Marie was born February 20, 1941 on the Piapot Cree Indian reserve in the Qu'Appelle valley, Saskatchewan, Canada. She was orphaned and later adopted and grew up in Maine and with parents Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie who were related to her biological parents. From the University of Massachusetts Amherst she holds degrees in teaching and Oriental Philosophy graduating in the top ten of her class and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Fine Arts. In 1964 on a return trip to the Piapot Cree reserve in Canada for a Powwow she was welcomed and (in a Cree nation context) adopted by the youngest son of Chief Piapot, Imu Piapot and his wife who added to Sainte-Marie's cultural value of, and place in, First Nations culture.
In 1968 she married surfing teacher Dewain Bugbee of Hawaii. They divorced in 1971. She married Sheldon Wolfchild from Minnesota in 1975, and they have a son, Dakota "Cody" Starblanket Wolfchild. She married Jack Nitzsche in the early 1980s. Sainte-Marie has been in a committed relationship with Hawaiian Chuck Wilson since 1993, ("A blond boy raised in a tan community" as Sainte-Marie says). She currently lives on Kauai.
She became an active friend of the Bahá'í Faith by the mid-1970s when she is said to have appeared in the 1973 Third National Baha’i Youth Conference at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, Oklahoma City, OK, with several artists including Seals & Crofts and has continued to appear at concerts, conferences and conventions of that religion since then. In 1992 Sainte-Marie appeared in the musical event prelude to the Bahá'í World Congress; a double concert "Live Unity: The Sound of the World" in 1992 with video broadcast and documentary. In the video documentary of the event Sainte-Marie is seen on the Dini Petty Show explaining the Bahá'í Faith teaching of Progressive revelation.
In 1996 she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Regina in Canada. In 2007 she received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. On 13 June 2008, she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada Honorary Doctor of Music from The University of Western Ontario on June 10, 2009 in London, Ontario, Canada.
Sainte-Marie played piano and guitar, self-taught, in her childhood and teen years. In college some of her songs, "Ananias", the Indian lament, "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" and "Mayoo Sto Hoon" (in Hindi) were already in her repertoire.
By 1962, in her early twenties, Sainte-Marie was touring alone, developing her craft and performing in various concert halls, folk festivals and Native reservations across the U.S, Canada and abroad. She spent a considerable amount of time in the coffeehouses of downtown Toronto's old Yorkville district, and New York City's Greenwich Village as part of the early to mid-1960s folk scene, often alongside other emerging Canadian contemporaries, such as Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell (including introducing her to manager Eliot Roberts, and Neil Young.
She quickly earned a reputation as a gifted songwriter, and many of her earliest songs were covered, and often turned into hits, by other artists, including Chet Atkins, Janis Joplin, Taj Mahal and others. One of her most popular songs, "Until It's Time for You to Go", has been recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, Roberta Flack, Françoise Hardy, Cher, and Bobby Darin, while "Piney Wood Hills" was made into a country hit by Bobby Bare.
In 1963, recovering from a throat infection Sainte-Marie became addicted to codeine and recovering from the experience became the basis of her song "Cod'ine", later covered by Donovan, The Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the songwriter Charles Brutus McClay . Also in 1963 Sainte-Marie witnessed wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam at a time when the U.S. government was denying involvement - this inspired her protest song "Universal Soldier" which was released on her debut album, It's My Way on Vanguard Records in 1964, and later became a hit for Donovan. She was subsequently named Billboard Magazine's Best New Artist. Some of her songs such as "My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying" (1964, included on her 1966 album) addressing the plight of the Native American people created a lot of controversy at the time.
In 1967, Sainte-Marie released the album Fire and Fleet and Candlelight, which contained her interpretation of the traditional song "Lyke Wake Dirge". Sainte-Marie's other well-known songs include "Mister Can't You See," (a Top 40 U.S. hit in 1972); "He's an Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo"; and the theme song of the popular movie Soldier Blue. Perhaps her first appearance on TV was as herself on To Tell the Truth in January 1966. She also appeared on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger in 1965 and several Canadian Television productions from the 1960s through to the 1990s
In the late sixties, Sainte-Marie used a Buchla synthesizer to record the album Illuminations, which did not receive much notice. "People were more in love with the Pocahontas-with-a-guitar image," she commented in a 1998 interview.
She sang the opening song "The Circle Game" (written by Joni Mitchell in Stuart Hagmann's film The Strawberry Statement (1970). Sainte-Marie regularly appeared on the children's TV series Sesame Street over a five year period from 1976 - 1981, along with her first son, Dakota Starblanket Wolfchild whom she breast fed in one episode. She also began using Apple Inc. Apple II and Macintosh computers as early as 1981 to record her music and later some of her visual art.
The song "Up Where We Belong" (which Sainte-Marie co-wrote with Will Jennings and musician Jack Nitzsche) was performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for the film An Officer and a Gentleman. It received the Academy Award for Best Song in 1982. The song was later covered by Cliff Richard and Anne Murray on Cliff's album of duets, Two's Company.
In the early 1980s one of her inspirational native songs was used as the theme song for the CBC's First Nations series Spirit Bay. She was cast for the TNT 1993 telefilm The Broken Chain. It was shot entirely in Virginia.
In 1989 she wrote and performed the music for Where the Spirit Lives a film about first nations children being abducted and forced into residential schools.
In 1992, after a sixteen-year recording hiatus, Sainte-Marie released the album Coincidence and Likely Stories. Recorded in 1990 at home in Hawaii on her computer and transmitted via modem through the early Internet to producer Chris Birkett in London, England, the album included the politically-charged songs "The Big Ones Get Away" and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (which mentions Leonard Peltier), both commenting on the ongoing plight of Native Americans (see also the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.) Also in 1992, Sainte-Marie appeared in the television movie The Broken Chain with Pierce Brosnan along with fellow First Nations Bahá'í Phil Lucas. Her next album followed up in 1996 with Up Where We Belong, an album on which she re-recorded a number of her greatest hits in more unplugged and acoustic versions, including a re-release of "Universal Soldier".
A gifted digital artist, Sainte-Marie has exhibited her art at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Emily Carr Gallery in Vancouver and the American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe.
She founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project in October 1996, from a two year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan. With projects across Mohawk, Cree, Ojibwe, Menominee, Coeur D'Alene, Navajo, Quinault, Hawaiian, and Apache communities in eleven states, partnered with a non-First Nations class of the same grade level for Elementary, Middle, and High School grades in the disciplines of Geography, History, Social Studies, Music and Science and produced a multimedia curriculum CD, Science: Through Native American Eyes.
In 2000, Sainte-Marie gave the commencement address at Haskell Indian Nations University. In 2002 she sang at the Kennedy Space Center for Commander John Herrington,USN, a Chicasaw and the first Native American astronaut. In 2003 she became a spokesperson for the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network in Canada.
In 2004, a track written and performed by her and entitled "Lazarus" was sampled by Hip Hop producer Kanye West and performed by Cam'Ron and Jim Jones of The Diplomats. The track is called "Dead or Alive". In June 2007, Sainte-Marie made a rare United States appearance at the Clear water Festival in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.
In 2008, Buffy is set to make a comeback onto the music scene with the release of her latest studio album Running For The Drum which is produced by Chris Birkett (producer of her critically acclaimed 1992 and 1996 "Best of" albums). Sessions for this latest project commenced in 2006 in Buffy's home studio in Hawaii and in part in France. They continued until spring 2007.
Another significant CD release due in 2008 is a 2CD set that digitally debuts Buffy's three obscure studio albums that she recorded for ABC Records and MCA Records between 1974 and 1976 (after departing her long-time label Vanguard Records). The CD re-issue of the songs from these lushly orchestrated and emotive albums will act as the missing jigsaw piece to Buffy's back catalogue which has to date been well serviced. The new CD set is titled "Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet America: The Mid-1970s Recordings".
Sainte-Marie claimed in a 2008 interview at the National Museum of the American Indian that she had been blacklisted and that she, along with other Native Americans and First Nations people in the Red Power movements, were put out of business in the 1970s.
"I found out 10 years later, in the 1980s, that President Lyndon B. Johnson had been writing letters on White House stationery praising radio stations for suppressing my music", Sainte-Marie said in a 1999 interview at Diné College given to Brenda Norrel, a staff writer with Indian Country Today ... "In the 1970s, not only was the protest movement put out of business, but the Native American movement was attacked." According to Norrel, this article was initially censored by Indian Country Today, and finally published only in part in 2006.
Additionally, Buffy Sainte-Marie claims that in the United States, her records were disappearing. According to her, thousands of people at concerts wanted records, and although the distributor claimed that the records had been shipped, no one seemed to know where they were.
Said Sainte-Marie, "I was put out of business in the United States."
France named Buffy Sainte-Marie Best International Artist of 1993. That same year, she was selected by the United Nations to proclaim officially the International Year of Indigenous Peoples.
Sainte-Marie was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame for her life-long contribution to music in 1995 and won a Gemini Award in 1997 for the Canadian TV special Buffy Sainte-Marie: Up Where We Belong. This also marked the first time she had performed her famous song to a live audience.
She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation in Canada in 1998, and was also made an Officer of the Order of Canada.
In 1999, she received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
* It's My Way!, 1964
* Many a Mile, 1965
* Little Wheel Spin and Spin, 1966 (US#97)
* Fire & Fleet & Candlelight, 1967 (US#126)
* I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again, 1968 (US#171)
* Illuminations, 1969
* Performance (film soundtrack) (1970)
* The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie, 1970 (US#142)
* The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie Vol.2, 1971
* She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina, 1971 (US#182)
* Moonshot, 1972 (US#134)
* Quiet Places, 1973
* Native North American Child: An Odyssey, 1974
* Buffy, 1974 (Issued on CD June 2008)**
* Changing Woman, 1975 (Issued on CD June 2008)**
* Sweet America, 1976 (Issued on CD June 2008)**
* Coincidence and Likely Stories, 1992 (UK#39)
* Up Where We Belong, 1996
* The Best of the Vanguard Years, 2003
* Live at Carnegie Hall, Not Issued
* Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet America: The Mid-1970s Recordings, 2008
* Running For The Drum, 2008
Year Song Chart positions Album
1971 "Soldier Blue" 7 She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina
1971 "I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again" 98 34 I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again
1972 "Mister Can't You See" 38 Moonshot
1972 "He's An Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo" 98
1992 "The Big Ones Get Away" 39 Coincidence & Likely Stories
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