Buffy Sainte-Marie is on tour to support the release of her bold new album, Power in the Blood.
Sainte-Marie is known for her 1960s protest anthems (“Universal Soldier”), open-hearted love songs (“Until It’s Time for You to Go”), incendiary powwow rock (“Starwalker”), and juggernaut pop hit “Up Where We Belong,” which Sainte-Marie co-wrote and Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes sang.
One of her earliest classics, “Cod’ine,” a harrowing account of addiction well ahead of its time, was covered by everyone from Janis Joplin to Donovan to Courtney Love. Sainte-Marie also spent five years on “Sesame Street” beginning in the mid-’70s.
Every song and every era has revealed new and distinctive shades of an artist revered for her pioneering and chameleon ways. There was no mold from which Buffy Sainte-Marie emerged; she created her own, ripened from experiences in both her head and her heart.
Her latest record is an honest reflection of Sainte-Marie. The hallmarks of her catalog – the eclecticism and compassion she brings to each album, oblivious to genre boundaries and production trends – are in glorious bloom here.
“To me, a good song stays relevant even though other good ones come along,” she says. “I feel like all my songs are coming from the 3-year-old I’ll always be, and the ones I keep loving are fresh to me every time I perform them.”
Often pegged as a folk singer, Sainte-Marie never fully fit in with her ’60s contemporaries. While her peers were singing the centuries-old folk ballads she may have adored, her songs sprang from her own imagination and were effortlessly unique.
In truth, Sainte-Marie is like an investigative journalist who prods and provokes to tell another side of a story. Her songs have been a light in the dark, uncovering everything from corporate greed (“No No Keshagesh”) to violations of human rights (“My Country ’Tis of Thy People You’re Dying”) to governmental abuse (“Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”) and its companion from this latest album, (“The Uranium War”).
That unwavering resilience has rippled across genres and generations, even as Sainte-Marie’s profile in the United States diminished significantly when she was blacklisted in the ’70s. Recognizing the power of her songwriting and activism, the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations considered her an “artist to be suppressed,” and Sainte-Marie all but disappeared from the U.S. music industry.
Power in the Blood is a reminder that, five decades on, it is still futile to silence artists or to put Sainte-Marie in any single category.
The Tidemark Theatre and Vancouver Island MusicFest present Buffy Sainte-Marie at the Tidemark Theatre on April 29.
Tickets are $47 plus taxes and fees and can be purchased at the Tidemark Box Office from Thursday – Saturday between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Tickets are also available online from www.islandmusicfest.com and www.tidemarktheatre.com.