"Buffy Sainte-Marie is an icon and inspiration. This book is necessary—an authorized insight into the making of a legend." —Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries
A powerful, intimate look at the life of a beloved folk icon and activist.
Folk hero. Songwriter icon. Living legend. Buffy Sainte-Marie is all of these things and more. In this, Sainte-Marie’s first and only authorized biography, music critic Andrea Warner draws from more than sixty hours of exclusive interviews to offer a powerful, intimate look at the life of the beloved artist and everything that she has accomplished in her seventy-seven years (and counting).
Since her groundbreaking debut, 1964’s It’s My Way!, the Cree singer-songwriter has been a trailblazer and a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights and freedoms, an innovative artist, and a disruptor of the status quo. Establishing herself among the ranks of folk greats such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, she has released more than twenty albums, survived being blacklisted by two U.S. presidents, and received countless accolades, including the only Academy Award ever to be won by a First Nations artist. But this biography does more than celebrate Sainte-Marie’s unparalleled talent as a songwriter and entertainer; packed with insight and knowledge, it offers an unflinchingly honest, heartbreakingly real portrait of the woman herself, including the challenges she experienced on the periphery of showbiz, her healing from the trauma of childhood and intimate partner violence, her commitment to activism, and her leadership in the protest movement.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
1 Suffer the Little Children 13
2 Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan 25
Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on surviving abuse 46
3 Universal Soldier 47
4 It's My Way 61
5 Cod'ine 71
Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on uncertainty 86
6 My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying 87
7 Better to Find Out for Yourself 103
8 Until It's Time for You to Go 117
Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on fame 128
9 Not the Lovin' Kind 129
10 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee 141
11 Generation 159
12 Up Where We Belong 171
Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on happiness 190
13 The Priests of the Golden Bull 191
14 We're Only Getting Started 205
15 No No Keshagesh 225
Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on decolonization 240
16 Power in the Blood 241
17 Carry It On 253
Afterword: Buffy and Me 267
What People are Saying About This
"Sainte-Marie’s voice shines through—funny, sharply incisive, never bitter... a heartfelt portrait."— Publishers Weekly
"Merriment and perseverance together – the image Warner’s writing casts is one of an insightful leader, whose commitment to joy in learning has only grown over the years. This is at the heart of the biography – one which arguably is decades overdue." — Globe and Mail
"At the core of Warner's portrait of Sainte-Marie lies a courageous, creative, funny woman who was decades ahead of her time."— Exclaim!
Warner['s]... biography of this soaring icon powerfully reveals Sainte-Marie’s cultural advocacy while shining a much-needed light on her essential humanity, life experiences, and prodigious musical talent.— Booklist
"This well-rounded and thorough authorized biography is perfectly timed – not just welcome but vita...Warner understands how intrinsically art and activism coexist for Sainte-Marie. There wouldn’t be one without the other. " — Quill & Quire
"I admired Buffy’s forthrightness, and her boldness and courage. " — The-BookReview.com
"Buffy Sainte-Marie is an icon and inspiration. This book is necessary—an authorized insight into the making of a legend." — Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries
"A crucial and compelling book that further cements Buffy Sainte-Marie's place in music history." — Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic
"Buffy Sainte-Marie is a beacon: she shows us how unwavering vision and fierce independence go hand-in-hand with the work of creating solidarity, community, justice, and beauty. This book is the captivating story of that achievement." — Naomi Klein, author of No is Not Enough and This Changes Everything
“Buffy Sainte-Marie’s career is enormously more impressive and significant than has been acknowledged or understood. This book draws decades of incredible, world-changing accomplishments together to make an irrefutable case for her place among the rock ‘n’ roll and songwriting greats. ” — Tanya Tagaq, Inuk songwriter and throat singer; winner of the 2014 Polaris Prize for Animism as well as multiple Juno Awards.
"A wonderful read! Buffy Sainte-Marie's creative soul has led her, as surely as a compass, in her art, political engagement, and a life of moral purpose." — Dar Williams, author of What I Found in A Thousand Towns
“Long overdue, Andrea Warner’s expansive, authorized biography reveals the astonishing range and breadth of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s work as a musician and writer, activist, educator, and spiritual leader. She is a true star, and this book goes a long way toward showing us how and why.” — Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick and After Kathy Acker: A Biography
“This book serves as proof that one person can make a world of difference. Buffy Sainte-Marie is a wonder—and the writing here reflects her truth, gentle forcefulness, intellect, and thoughtfulness.”— Tracey Lindberg, author of Birdie
"Warner has composed an extraordinary portrait of one of our most extraordinary artists, a book that feels suffused with Buffy Sainte-Marie's personality and spirit." — Sean Michaels, author of Us Conductors
"In this heartfelt and revealing book, Buffy Sainte-Marie helps us to realize that out of loss and denial can come enormous gifts and beauty."— Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada (1999-2005)
When I started out in the sixties there weren’t many women writing music, but Buffy Sainte-Marie was an exception to the rule. Whenever Buffy came through town I went down to the coffee house to hear her play. Her songs were so smart, so well-crafted, and her performances were stunning. She was different from the stereotypical music industry old boys’ club. When I moved to Toronto to pursue music, I stopped at the Mariposa Folk Festival on the way to see Buffy perform. A year later, I played that same festival, so you could say I followed in Buffy’s footsteps.
Buffy really helped me at the beginning: before I was well-known, she performed songs I wrote, bringing them to a wider audience, and she played my tape for anyone who would listen. Over the years since, Buffy and I have maintained a long-distance mutual respect. We have ties to Saskatchewan, but we share more than just a home: we both write songs with emotion, songs with a message. And to this day, we both walk our own path.
I’ve watched Buffy’s long career with admiration, and I’m honored to write this foreword to her authorized biography. Buffy Sainte-Marie is one of folk music’s unsung heroes, and her inspirational life is a story that deserves to be read.
— Joni Mitchell, June 2018