Monday, March 5, 2012

Buffy Sainte Marie: music for body, mind and soul

Image of Buffy from the National Post

Sunday night Buffy Sainte Marie performed in Chilliwack. The last time I'd seen her live was at the Orpheum, circa 1969. After the concert, I huddled in the rain until a tiny woman in a dark cape and platform shoes emerged from the hall. Ebony hair hung all down her back and gleamed in the light above the stage door as she bent her head to sign our programs. Still in her twenties, the creator of "The Universal Soldier" was already an international star.

Last night this smiling woman sparkled and danced onto the stage. Backed up by a great three-man aboriginal band, her rich voice unchanged, she opened with a bluesy classic, "The Piney Wood Hills." Her lyrics plumbed my memory and "Country Girl Again" evoked the homesickness I felt for the north when I first came to the city.

An outspoken aboriginal woman, Buffy was blacklisted in the US during the Johnson administration and her songs disappeared from the air. "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee," referred to the jailing of Leonard Peltier of the American Indian Movement. "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" was first released in 1964. The woman bard's subjects include substance abuse and environmental degradation, as well as spiritual connection, happiness and celebrating the survival of our ancestors. She tells stories too, and speaks positively of human achievements.

This lively Cree woman is an amazingly versatile musician whose work has been sung by many famous people. She wrote the well-known pop song "Up Where we Belong" and was part of the famous children's show Sesame Street. Sometimes, she sings her beautiful love song "Until it's Time for You to Go," and other times, she plays her mouth bow, and "Cripple Creek," just for fun.

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