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Buffy Sainte-Marie was a graduating college senior in 1962 and hit the ground running in the early Sixties, after the beatniks and before the hippies. All alone she toured North America’s colleges, reservations and concert halls, meeting both huge acclaim and huge misperception from audiences and record companies who expected Pocahontas in fringes, and instead were both entertained and educated with their initial dose of Native American reality in the first person.
By age 24, Buffy Sainte-Marie had appeared all over Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia, receiving honors, medals and awards, which continue to this day. Her song Until It’s Time for You to Go was recorded by Elvis and Barbra and Cher, and her Universal Soldier became the anthem of the peace movement. For her very first album she was voted Billboard’s Best New Artist.
She disappeared suddenly from the mainstream American airwaves during the Lyndon Johnson years. Unknown to her, as part of a blacklist which affected Eartha Kitt, Taj Mahal and a host of other outspoken performers, her name was included on White House stationery as among those whose music “deserved to be suppressed”, and radio airplay disappeared. Invited onto television talk shows on the basis of her success with Until It’s Time for You to Go, she was told that Native issues and the peace movement had become unfashionable and to limit her comments to celebrity chat. The next presidential administration, that of Richard Nixon, also came down hard on her, as this was the time of Wounded Knee.
In Indian country and abroad, however, her fame only grew. Denied an adult television audience in the U.S., in 1975 she joined the cast of Sesame Street for five years. She continued to appear at countless grassroots concerts, AIM (American Indian Movement) events and other activist benefits in Canada and the U.S. She made 18 albums of her music, three of her own television specials, scored movies, garnered international acclaim, helped to found Canada’s Music of Aboriginal Canada JUNO category, raised a son, earned a Ph.D. in Fine Arts, taught Digital Music as adjunct professor at several colleges, and won an Academy Award Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for the song Up Where We Belong.
2009 marked the release of her eighteenth album Running for the Drum, which just won Buffy her third Juno Award. Packaged in tandem with the bio-documentary DVD Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life, the two disks together give audiences a glimpse into the life and work of this unique, always current artist.
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