Monday, April 25, 2005

BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE: The Universal Singer

Impassioned, spiritually militant, a fierce crusader, and an intuitively talented electronic painting artist and eclectic singer extraordinaire. Academy Award winner Buffy Sainte-Marie, born February 20, 1941, on the Piapot Reserve, Saskatchewan, Canada, has lived multiple lives in one. Orphaned as an infant she was adopted by a part MicMac (mostly white) family and raised in Maine and Massachusetts.

Earning a degree in Oriental Philosophy, a teacher's degree and a Ph.D. in Fine Arts (all from the University of Massachusetts) Sainte-Marie is ever the instinctive teacher. Achieving fame in the early 1960s for both love songs and protest songs, her tune Until It's Time for You to Go was recorded by Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack, Sonny and Cher, and over 200 other musicians worldwide. And her song Universal Soldier (which has again become timely) became the anthem of the Vietnam war protests.

In 1968, Sainte-Marie founded the Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education, whose Cradleboard Teaching Project currently synthesizes educational curriculum between Native American and mainstream children in Canada and the U.S. computer technology and a progressive reinterpretation of Native Studies.

In 1972 Sainte-Marie scored a top 40 pop music hit with the impassioned rocker Mister Can't You See, backed with the mysterious tune Moonshot, an early ode to alien abduction. She also spent five years as a cast member of television's Sesame Street during the 1970s. Continuing to scale the musical heights, Sainte-Marie won an Academy Award Oscar in 1981 for the song Up Where We Belong from the Richard Gere/Debra Winger movie An Officer and a Gentleman.

An incredible series of annual creative triumps began in March, 1992 at the Canadian JUNO Awards, when Sainte-Marie established a new category: "Music of Aboriginal Canada". The following year, the city of Paris, France named her "Best International Artist of 1993". And in 1994, Sainte-Marie received the Lifetime Achievement Award in her home province of Saskatchewan from the Saskatchewan Recording Industry Association. The Canadian Recording Industry Association inducted Sainte-Marie into the JUNO Hall of Fame in 1995, and continuing her "roll" in February, 1996, she received a second Lifetime Musical Achievement Award from First Americans in the Arts in San Francisco.

Currently Sainte-Marie resides in Hawaii and commutes to continental North America where she teaches digital art and music as Adjunct Professor of Fine Arts at several
colleges. She continues music production from home using her Macintosh computer as a recording instrument (playing most of the musical instrumentation herself).

Coincidence and Likely Stories, Sainte-Marie's combeack album of the early 1990s, was the first documented use of the internet to deliver a music CD via modem. (Digitally recorded at her home in Hawaii and delivered to Chrysalis Records studio in London, England 1989-90).

Saine-Marie's album Up Where We Belong received the 1997 JUNO Award for Best Music of Aboriginal Canada. She also won a 1997 Gemini Award (Canada's version of an Emmy) for performancing in her (third) television special, Up Where We Belong, beating out competitors Celine Dion and Alanis Morrisette.

Having taken up the art of digital painting in 1984, hers were the first large scale (8x9 feet) works to be shown in noted galleries, including the Glenbow Museum in Calgary and the Institute for American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe. With such a full list of accomplishments, Sainte-Marie restricts herself to thirty concerts a year in order to devote full time to the Cradleboard Teaching Project.

In 1997 Sainte-Marie was presented with the Louis T. Delgado Award as Native American Philanthropist of the Year for her Cradleboard Teaching Project. She was also given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Indian College Fund and is an Officer in the Order of Canada, the highest civilian Canadian honor.