TORONTO — On April 1, 2019 Cree singer, songwriter, educator AND social activist Buffy Sainte-Marie was inducted into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame at the SOCAN Awards in Toronto.
She has been inducted among other notables including Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell and Rush. But this is not Sainte-Marie’s first recognition by the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, as her song “Universal Soldier,” was inducted in 2005.
The song was written in 1963 and is notable for having been covered most memorably by The Highwaymen, Donovan and the Scruggs. The song, about the individual responsibilities of people and soldiers to engage in war, was written after hearing rumours that American advisors were involved in combat. Although popular and widely covered, it’s certainly not Sainte-Marie’s only claim to musical fame. Other songs have also garnered some significant attention, “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” being covered by Elvis Presley, her “Up Where We Belong,” winning an Academy Award in 1982 for Best Original Song, and her album Illuminations being a pioneering work in electronic and synthesized music.
Sainte-Marie’s career isn’t just defined by a 50-year span of making popular music however. She has also been an advocate for indigenous people throughout her artistry as her songs, “Now That The Buffalo’s Gone,” and “My Country ’Tis of Thy People You’re Dying,” cover the mistreatment of indigenous people in North America. The outspokenness of Sainte-Marie led to her being allegedly blacklisted from radio stations in America by Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. Despite the blacklisting, Sainte-Marie continued to experiment with music and technologies, using an early synthesizer to record her 1969 album, Illuminations, and again later using Apple II and Macintosh computers in the 80s.
Her last album, Medicine Songs, was recorded recently in 2017, and the 78-year-old performer also has several Junos, a Polaris Prize, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Her induction may be seen as late, but definitely well deserved.