"Buffy Sainte-Marie is an icon and inspiration. This book is necessary—an authorized insight into the making of a legend." —Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries
A powerful, intimate look at the life of a beloved folk icon and activist.
Folk hero. Songwriter icon. Living legend. Buffy Sainte-Marie is all of these things and more. In this, Sainte-Marie’s first and only authorized biography, music critic Andrea Warner draws from more than sixty hours of exclusive interviews to offer a powerful, intimate look at the life of the beloved artist and everything that she has accomplished in her seventy-seven years (and counting).
Since her groundbreaking debut, 1964’s It’s My Way!, the Cree singer-songwriter has been a trailblazer and a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights and freedoms, an innovative artist, and a disruptor of the status quo. Establishing herself among the ranks of folk greats such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, she has released more than twenty albums, survived being blacklisted by two U.S. presidents, and received countless accolades, including the only Academy Award ever to be won by a First Nations artist. But this biography does more than celebrate Sainte-Marie’s unparalleled talent as a songwriter and entertainer; packed with insight and knowledge, it offers an unflinchingly honest, heartbreakingly real portrait of the woman herself, including the challenges she experienced on the periphery of showbiz, her healing from the trauma of childhood and intimate partner violence, her commitment to activism, and her leadership in the protest movement.
Warner (We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the 90s and Changed Canadian Music) presents a broad overview of the career of Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Cree singer, activist, educator, and actor who was born in Saskatchewan in 1941. Sainte-Marie is known for her earnest pop songs from the 1960s through the '90s ( among them "Universal Soldier" and "Until It's Time for You to Go"), indigenous anthems ("Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee"), and her years as a performer on Sesame Street in the 1970s. Quoting extensively from interviews with Sainte-Marie, Warner writes honestly about the racism Sainte-Marie experienced growing up; her opioid addiction in the 1960s; and her claims of being blacklisted, along with other indigenous people, by American radio stations in the 1970s. She documents Sainte-Marie's music collaborations (she recently recorded with Canadian throat singer Tanya Tagaq); her Native American school curriculum, the Cradleboard Teaching Project, which helps raise self-esteem; and her receiving an Academy Award for best original song ("Up Where We Belong," performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes). While Sainte-Marie's voice shines through funny, sharply incisive, never bitter some sections feel clunky due to an overreliance on direct quotes from lengthy, unedited interview transcripts. The book feels overlong, but it's nevertheless a heartfelt portrait.