Sunday, 2 October 2011

Buffy the warmonger slayer

By Rich Freedman/ Posted: 10/02/2011 01:00:43 ( Via )

Buffy Sainte-Marie has seemingly had her feet on the ground for many years, which is surprising considering how much time she spends in the air.

"United (Airlines) is basically my reading room," Sainte-Marie said.

Don't think the long-time face of Indian activism is complaining. Not after 50 years of finding her music still in demand.

Yep, some 47 years after "Universal Soldier" became the beacon for 1960s peace advocates, the Canadian Cree still performs 200 concerts a year, including a concert Oct. 6 at the Napa Valley Opera House.

"I'm a little too busy," Sainte-Marie said by phone. "But I love it."

Of course, the rigors of the road with her aborigine band is a bit easier when the last 40 years on Mother Earth are spent on a Hawaiian farm.

Peaceful. Tranquil. Serene. Almost makes a songwriter and guitarist forget those forgettable years when she was blacklisted by both Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.

"That put an end (at the time) to my career and others," Sainte-Marie said. She may have been temporarily silenced, but her music wasn't.

"Until It's Time for You to Go" from 1965 has been recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, Roberta Flack, Cher, Maureen McGovern and Bobby Darin.

Yet, it was "Universal Soldier" that garnered Sainte-Marie the most attention even though it was Donovan's recording of the tune a year after Sainte-Marie's 1964 release that helped launch it into the mainstream consciousness., an international travel web site, put "Universal Soldier" No. 44 in the "Top 100 Songs That Changed History."

The song, said Sainte-Marie, "had an interesting career all its own. A lot of people think Donovan wrote it. He didn't. And he's always acknowledged that."

There's a piece of furniture from a soldier's bunk in the Smithsonian with some of the song's lyrics hand-written into it. Obviously, the tune had an impact with the troops.

"In reading the letters, the emails and faxes, I see all the lives it did change," Sainte-Marie said. "I don't regret writing it. It still makes sense. It's about an individual's responsibility for the world we live in."

Sainte-Marie surely learned from that experience decades ago as she has learned not only how to form a touring band, but how to keep the endurance it takes for a cross-country schedule.

Accompanying Buffy Sainte-Marie is an all-Aboriginal band from Indian Reserves in Manitoba, Canada: Leroy Constant (Cree) on bass and vocals, Jesse Green (Lakota/Ojibwe) on guitar, and Mike Bruyere (Ojibwe) on drums and vocals.

"What you look for in a musician is stability," Sainte-Marie said. "One guy I took on the road thought he was in 'Spinal Tap.'

If you go

Who: Buffy Sainte-Marie

Where: Napa Valley Opera House, 1030 Main St., Napa

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $35-$40

Info: (707) 226-7372;;

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