There are hundreds of reasons to love Cree singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie but here are just a few. Well, ten:
- Her 1963 single “Universal Soldier” became such a big anti-war anthem that the FBI tapped her phone and compiled a 31-page file on the singer; the Johnson administration blacklisted her as an artist who “deserved to be suppressed.”
- At the age of 24, Sainte-Marie used her extra earnings to found the Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education, which offered law school scholarships.
- In 1967 she explained the history of Native American genocide in the pages of Seventeen magazine.
- Though known primarily as a folk singer, Sainte-Marie’s 1969 album Illuminations was largely synthesized, crafted in the electronic music department of NYU. People hated it at the time, though its reputation has grown significantly in the last decade or so.
- Her 1972 album Moonshot is largely ignored now, but the title track might just be her best song of all.
- She once gave Big Bird a breastfeeding demo on Sesame Street. (Really.)
- The Smithsonian houses Sainte-Marie’s Oscar, since she was the first (and might still be the only) Native person to ever win one. (She co-wrote “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman, which won Best Original Song in 1982. Listen to her version if you’re only familiar with the Joe Cocker/Jennifer Warnes duet.)
- Her 2008 song “Running for the Government” was remixed a few years later by the great electronic trio A Tribe Called Red.
- In 2015 Sainte-Marie won the Polaris Prize for the year’s best Canadian album. “I bought everyone’s album and listened to every cut,” she said in her acceptance speech after beating Drake, the New Pornographers, Alvvays, and Ghostface Killah for the honor. “They’re all so good.”
- She now lives in Hawaii with goats.
Now 76, she plays the Columbus next Saturday. The Huntress and Holder of Hands opens.