- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Greystone Books (Sept. 25 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9781771643580
- ISBN-13: 978-1771643580
- ASIN: 1771643587
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
- Shipping Weight: 599 g
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography Hardcover – Sep 25 2018
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"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.
“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)
About the Author
Andrea Warner writes about music, feminism, and pop culture and is the author of We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music. She contributes to CBC Music, Pitchfork, the Georgia Straight, and Exclaim! and co-hosts the podcast Pop This!
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Anyone who has been a fan of Buffy Sainte-Marie since the 1960s as I have, already knew of her pain and difficulties with the men in her life and we didn't need to hear it all again in such detail. As an artist and writer, I wanted so badly to hear about her as an artist: what are her writing and composing practices? How did she go about experimenting with creative guitar tuning? What were some of her inspirations for songs? How does she work out instrumentation with band members and producers? What landscapes inspire her? There was no beauty in this book. As a elementary school teacher, I promised myself that I would always include Indigenous material no matter what grade I taught, and Buffy Sainte-Marie's educational philosophy and work have been wonderful inspirations for me as an educator.
After I finished the book, I got in my car and blasted Power in the Blood and Medicine Songs to refresh myself. If you want a better biography, read the one by Blair Stonechild, a lovely book by someone who really cares.
Hey, Buffy. a big Migwech to you. Kesakihikan. You are a genius. I can't imagine my life without your music and your activism for Indigenous people around the globe. "The young and the old are as one" through your work.
Many of us will remember when we were first introduced to Sainte-Marie's music. It was magical. She was magical. Or perhaps the times were magical. So many great musicians and songs came out of that 1960s, early 70s time period. Reading Warner's book can easily motivate one to look through old LPs to find a favorite Buffy record or to look online for a sample of an old song remembered. Warner's book is important as it reintroduces us to an old friend, Sainte-Marie, and perhaps introduces her for the first time to a younger generation. It is interesting to read how Buffy started in music, how she taught herself to play the guitar, how she never learned to read music or felt it was necessary. There is something in Sainte-Marie's attitude toward music that speaks to the rebel in all of us.
The parts of the book that are not devoted to music, recording studios, and record labels are centered around Indigenous people, Indigenous rights, and the uneasy politics of such in North America. Buffy Sainte-Marie has always used her music as a political platform, and no one can speak - or sing - on behalf of Indigenous people as she can. She is the Queen of First Nation/Native American history, bringing forth the realities and politics in this area. Over the years, Buffy Sainte-Marie has educated many North Americans through her music. In many ways her politics ARE her music and her music plays out her politics. She has devoted her life and her musical talents to not only the people of her tribe, but to the people of all Indigenous tribes.
So what makes Warner's book feel more like reportage and less like true biography? Most likely, it is the simple fact that Buffy Sainte-Marie is very much alive. The best biographies are usually ones written long after a person is gone, ones that pull from the correspondence or journals of that individual as well as on interviews with friends and acquaintances. True biographers feel the need to fill in gaps, and often do with observations about what was going on in the country or the world during a specific time period in the subject's life. Biographers act as detectives and psychologists as they try to draw comparisons, analyze, and sometimes even speculate. Warner was not able to do all of that, of course. Her job was to write what Buffy wants us - her audience- to know.
Are there surprises in the book? Not many. Although some people might be surprised to know that Buffy grew up in Maine and Massachusetts, and was not from the Western US. She was from a Canadian First Nation tribe and was adopted by an American couple. Her adoptive father was white and her adoptive mother was said to be partially of MicMac descent. It would have been interesting if Sainte-Marie had talked more about her adoptive family and perhaps allowed Warner to do some genealogical research. Later in life, Buffy tried to track down who had given her up for adoption in the first place, and was accepted into the Piapot family on the File Hills Reserve in Saskatchewan. Only a couple of paragraphs were related to this whereas the entire story could have filled an entire book. Perhaps Sainte-Marie was protecting the privacy of others or perhaps parts of the past were too painful to revisit. Whatever the reason, the book is lacking something by leaving out this exploration into family history.
Buffy attended UMass/Amherst which may come as a revelation to some fans. She was going to become a teacher, and - in many ways - she did. She has taught generations of North Americans through her music. Her adoptive mother had wanted her to continue her education, and it appears that Buffy may have stayed in school in part to please her. Buffy's adoptive mother comes across as an inspirational, warm, and wonderful woman. Sainte-Marie says that they had a good relationship. But after a few mentions in the beginning of the book, the mother mostly disappears from the narrative. One wonders about their relationship over the intervening years. Readers will undoubtedly want to hear more about the woman who raised Buffy. Saint-Marie did talk with Andrea Warner about her adoptive brother who bullied and sexually abused her when they were young. Again, there is brief mention of this, but one senses that there might be enough material there for another entire book.
Some of the best parts of the the biography are when Warner quotes Sainte-Marie in her own words. A few times, notably toward the end of the book, Buffy's sense of humor comes out, and that is refreshing. It is refreshing because there is something emotional lacking in this biography. At the end of it, we don't feel as though we know its subject. Yes, we know her music and we know her politics, but somewhere the person disappears. Living in rural Hawaii, surrounded by the animals she loves, Saint-Marie is a bit of an introvert. She may not want any of us too close to her life, and that is understood. Still, one finishes this book and feels a bit empty, wanting more . . .