Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

SAINTE-MARIE, Buffy

(b 20 February 1941, Piapot Reservation, Saskatchewan, Canada) Singer-songwriter, guitarist; perceived as a folksinger but performing original material. Grew up in New England, studied oriental philosophy at U. of Massachusetts, intended to be a teacher but went to Greenwich Village for a weekend and soon signed with Vanguard. Her best-known song, 'Universal Soldier', was a hit by Donovan, recorded by Glen Campbell, the Highwayman etc; some thought that Donovan had written it (she was self-effacing about her authorship). Folksinger and instrument maker Patrick Sky (b 2 October 1940, near Atlanta GA) appeared on her first album (made two of his own on Vanguard, more on Verve/Forecast and Adelphi), taught her to play the Indian mouth bow; her part-Indian ancestry was honoured in songs like 'My Country 'Tis Of Thy People You're Dying' and 'Now That The Buffalo's Gone'.

She stopped to rest '63 because of ill health, became addicted to codeine and wrote 'Cod'ine' about it. She performed at Carnegie Hall with Johnny Cash and Chuck Berry, toured North America, then the world. Her 'Until It's Time For You To Go' was covered by Bobby Darin and Elvis Presley, 'Piney Wood Hills' by Bobby Bare; she had Hot 100 singles '71-2 with 'I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again', 'Mister Can't You See' (top 40), 'He's An Indian Cowboy In The Rodeo'; 'Soldier Blue' went top ten in the UK. Vanguard albums (in chronological order) included It's My Way, Many A Mile, Little Wheel/Spin And Spin '66, Fire, Fleet, Candlelight '67, I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again '68 (made in Nashville; including 'Tall Trees In Georgia'), Illuminations '69 (including 'God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot', co-written with Leonard Cohen), She Used To Wanna Be A Ballerina '71 (with Ry Cooder, Neil Young and Crazy Horse), Moonshot '72 (moving toward mainstream rock), Quiet Places (another Nashville album, less traditional than the '68 one), Native North American Child: An Odyssey, plus greatest hits albums.

She was persecuted by back-to-back American administrations, Democrat and Republican; she says Lyndon Johnson wrote to radio stations on White House stationery praising them for not playing her songs, and Nixon didn't like her either. Nevertheless, six albums charted; her later work included Buffy and Changing Woman on MCA. She left music to raise her son and was a presenter on Sesame Street; her song 'Up Where We Belong' was used in the soundtrack of An Officer And A Gentleman '82, the single by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes a no. 1 that year. She came back with Coincidence And Likely Stories on Ensign/Chrysalis '92, classy and discreet treatments with bitter lyrics; Up Where We Belong '96 was a collection of remakes of her best songs: 'I still feel them in the same way, but I sing better now.' She also paints, her huge pictures in Canadian museums and galleries produced since the mid-'80s using Macintosh digital technology. She began writing again and Running For The Drum 2009 appeared on Appleseed, including 'No More Keshagesh', a song about war profiteers.