Since her groundbreaking debut, 1964’s It’s My Way!, Buffy Sainte-Marie has been a trailblazer and a tireless advocate. For more than a half-century, Sainte-Marie has been a disruptor of the status quo. In 1969, she made one of the world’s first electronic vocal albums; in 1982 she became the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar; When she was blacklisted and silenced from American radio airwaves she joined the cast of Sesame Street and became the first woman to breastfeed on national television. She’s written pop standards sung and recorded by the likes of Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Donovan, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes in addition to writing ‘Universal Soldier’, the definitive anti-war anthem of the 20th century.
Coming off her critically acclaimed, Polaris prize winning 2015 album Power in the Blood, and after winning the 2016 spirit of Americana Award, Buffy Sainte-Marie has delivered her new album Medicine Songs – and has made it her mission to educate and inform the world using her strongest tool – her music, by – in her own words – “putting the songs to work”.
The album starts with ‘You Got To Run (Spirit of the Wind)’, the new unreleased collaboration with fellow Polaris prize winning indigenous artist Tanya Tagaq, followed by the politically charged ‘The War Racket’. There are also new recordings of some of the most powerful songs Buffy’s ever written, including ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’, ‘Starwalker’, timeless protest classics like ‘Universal Soldier’, ‘Now That the Buffalo’s Gone’, and ‘Little Wheel Spin and Spin’, as well as forgotten gems that were simply ahead of their time when first released, like the shimmery, eye-opening ‘Priests of the Golden Bull’” and the chillingly prescient ‘Disinformation’.
Medicine Songs has been a lifetime in the making and is perhaps, Sainte-Marie’s most powerful gift. In a statement, Sainte-Marie describes the album:
“This is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work. These are songs I’ve been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life.
I’ve found that a song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook. It’s immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, easy to understand – and sometimes you can dance to it. Effective songs are shared, person-to-person, by artists and friends, as opposed to news stories that are marketed by the fellas who may own the town, the media, the company store and the mine. I hope you use these songs, share them, and that they inspire change and your own voice.
It might seem strange that along with the new ones, I re-recorded and updated some of these songs from the past using current technologies and new instrumentations – giving a new life to them from today’s perspective. The thing is, some of these songs were too controversial for radio play when they first came out, so nobody ever heard them, and now is my chance to offer them to new generations of like-minded people dealing with these same concerns. It’s like the play is the same but the actors are new.
I really want this collection of songs to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good. Songs can motivate you and advance your own ideas, encourage and support collaborations and be part of making change globally and at home. They do that for me and I hope this album can be positive and provide ideas and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own.”
Format CD, LP & DL
Label True North Records
Cat. No. TND681
Release Date January 26 2018
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BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE – MEDICINE SONGS – TRACK BY TRACK
You Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind)
Learning to overcome the odds is what makes a champion, to be your own best friend beyond the money, the greed and the prize.
The War Racket
Billionaire bullies on both sides collude in wars that suck money out of the heart of both domestic economies and into the big pockets at the top. It’s a racket and it’s obscene.
Portraits of indigenous healers, activists, wisdom keepers, health sustainers, intellectuals. Some of the names mentioned are real people.
My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying
Indian 101 for people who’ve been denied the real history of how Indigenous people in North America got to be in the tragic states of affairs most suffer today: poor health, domestic insecurity and poverty. I wrote it in the 1960s before people used the word genocide or acknowledged the indigenous holocaust of the Americas, or the horror of residential schools.
America the Beautiful
I wrote two new sections to the classic song by Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward.
Carry It On
This is my favorite song. It reboots me and sets me straight, whatever’s going on.
Little Wheel Spin and Spin
The little hatreds we host in our hearts add up to be the big things we hate about the world. The gear-like interaction of private and public actions, what goes around comes around.
No No Keshagesh
Keshagesh means greedy guts in Cree. It was the name of a puppy who would eat his own dinner, and then want everybody else’s too. The song is about counterbalancing environmental greed.
This song is more ma-triotic than patriotic. Think crickets, not guns. A contrast between the nation-state America and natural North America, from toe to crown.
The Priests of the Golden Bull
Uranium is a presence in Indian Country, and so are predatory energy companies. The Windego is a greed monster like the European idea of a vampire.
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
The theft of uranium lands from the Pine Ridge reservation during the Nixon administration led to incidents involving Annie Mae Aquash, Joe Stuntz and Leonard Peltier.
A song I wrote in 1961 about individual responsibility for the world we’re living in. I wish it didn’t still make sense.
Power in the Blood
Contemporary issues: You can kill me but you can’t provoke me into becoming a killer. I modified A3’s original violent lyrics and turned it into a peace song, with A3’s blessing.
The following songs are available on the DIGITAL release of Medicine Songs:
This song takes place in the world of mercenaries & spies, James Bond types who compete for excellence in the deadly acts of a corrupt system.
When a hero hired to protect corrupt bosses decides to tell the truth with no immunity, no good deed goes unpunished: but Hallelujah anyway.
Now That the Buffalo’s Gone
This is the first song about Indigenous people most radio listeners ever heard. Although it’s about a specific incident (the breaking of a treaty and eviction of the Senecas to build Kinzua Dam for which there were other alternative sites), the song was used to spotlight many similar issues in the 1960s and 1970s.
Life goes on in spite of bank fraud, bozo politicians and bad parenting.
The Big Ones Get Away
Loving a company guy. Some men will do anything to be the hero. Corruption, cover-ups, taking the blame for crooked politicians. Your own chances to do miracles get away from you while you help the big bosses get away with murder.
Working for the Government
A little tongue in cheek powwow rocker about some of our favorite assassins like James Bond and G.I. Joe.
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