Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Re-discovering Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie As I Remember Her
       When I was growing up, Buffy Sainte-Marie appeared frequently on variety shows.  My best friend, Gregg, and I would get on the phone and unabashedly make fun of her quivering voice as we watched on our separate TV sets.  We were too juvenile to be paying attention to the unmistakable lyrics, and the tunes were just like other folk songs of the era.  So when Eric presented me with The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie as a birthday gift, I was a little puzzled.  He said the gag
was that I mention her more often than anyone else when we're talking music.  

      For those of you who don't know Buffy Sainte-Marie, she is a Canadian Cree Indian singer-songwriter and social activist originally from Saskatchewan.  Still performing in her 70s, she is as controversial today as she was when she joined (and formed) demonstrations in the '60s.  Blacklisted by President Johnson, her career high took a hike for a couple of decades.  Awards were limited, but she did receive the Oscar for co-writing "Up Where You Belong" for the 1981 film An Officer and a Gentleman.  She had not been on my radar for some time other than my frequent cheeky remarks, according to Eric.

      So it was with great curiosity that I opened the CD before embarking on a trip to Columbus.  At last Eric and I could listen to what he had never heard and I had been joking about for years.  We fully expected to listen to 2-3 songs and then move on to a more pertinent CD from our collection.  Boy, were we wrong!  From the opening "A Soulful Shade of Blue" to "My Country Tis of Thy People" to "Cripple Creek", we were mesmerized.  Eric thought her voice was what Florence and the Machine have been channeling, but have never quite reached.  The songs protested the Vietnam War and social issues in the '60s.  (No comparison to Florence there.)  Suddenly, her voice didn't seem to quiver as much as I recalled.   Oh, it was there, but now I was hearing the words.  Words to music that were all hers—as original as songs get and so pertinent to our times as they were way back when.  Each title seemed to draw us in more and then there would be a classic (i.e. "The Circle Game") that neither of us realized she had written.  This woman was a genius and I was feeling more than embarrassed.  My apologies to one grand lady who continues to be a legend in so many ways.


Wow!  She is one cool cat!!

No comments: