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Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie's long career has seen her rise to stardom as a folk artist and try her hand at country, rock, soundtracks, acting, activism, and children's television. Beginning with mid-'60s Vanguard releases like 1964's It's My Way!, many of her songs addressed the plight of Indigenous peoples in the United States and Canada, particularly "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" and "My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying." She was also skilled at addressing broader themes of war and justice ("Universal Soldier") and romance ("Until It's Time for You to Go" and her Oscar-winning co-write "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman), topics she returned to on later albums like 2015's Power in the Blood. In 2023, a CBC News investigation revealed Sainte-Marie was born in the U.S. to parents of Italian and English heritage, disproving her claims of Indigenous Canadian ancestry. Sainte-Marie was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts to parents of English and Italian descent (the family changed its original surname, Santamaria, in response to prejudice against Italian-Americans following World War II). A self-taught pianist and guitarist, she became part of the early 1960s folk scene in the old Yorkville district of Toronto and in New York City's Greenwich Village. Around this time, Saint-Marie met Emile Piapot, the son of the Cree chief of the Piapot First Nation, and was adopted by him and his wife Clara. Signing to Vanguard, Sainte-Marie released her debut album, It's My Way!, in 1964. Though she was one of the folk scene's more prominent rising singer/songwriters, much of her best material from this era gained its greatest commercial inroads via cover versions. "Universal Soldier" (from It's My Way!) was one of Donovan's first hits. "Cod'ine," another song from her debut album, was one of the first '60s songs to explicitly address the dangers of drugs and was covered by California rock bands Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Charlatans. "Until It's Time for You to Go" (from 1965's Many a Mile) was interpreted by numerous pop singers, and became a big British hit for Elvis Presley in the early '70s. Sainte-Marie didn't constrain herself to folk, however, recording in Nashville in the late '60s in attempts to break into the country market. In the '70s, she recorded some rock records, including one (1971's She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina) with contributions from Ry Cooder and Crazy Horse. Following 1976's Sweet America, Sainte-Marie took a break from recording but frequently appeared on Sesame Street, performed benefits for and organized on behalf of Indigenous Americans, and composed for movies. In 1983, she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "Up Where We Belong," the theme to An Officer and a Gentleman (the song was co-written with lyricist Will Jennings and her then-husband, producer Jack Nitzsche). "Up Where We Belong" went on to win the Golden Globe Award the BAFTA for Best Original Song. Sainte-Marie hadn't made an album for 16 years before issuing Coincidence and Likely Stories in 1992. It was another 17 years before her next, Running for the Drum, appeared in 2009. She did some limited touring to support the album while continuing her work as an activist and educator. True North reissued Running for the Drum in 2014 and released a new album, Power in the Blood, in 2015. Recorded in Toronto with producers Michael Phillip Wojewoda, Jon Levine, and Chris Birkett, it contained two covers -- the title tune by Alabama 3 and UB40's "Sing Our Own Song" -- surrounded by reworked tunes from her catalog and new material. 2017's Medicine Songs, a collection of songs of unity and resistance, followed a similar template, featuring two new tunes along with 11 reworked and updated numbers from throughout Sainte-Marie's career. The documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On premiered in 2022. The following August, Saint-Marie retired due to health issues. In October 2023, CBC News published her birth certificate, confirming she was not of Indigenous heritage.
© TiVo Staff /TiVo
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