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Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Reader's Diary #2146- Andrea Warner: Buffy Sainte-Marie

Anyone who follows me on other social media, likely knows that my other pop-culture love, outside of books, is rock music. And very specifically, I'm a bit of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame junky. Like other followers of that institution, I have my list of snubs that should be in but I'd not given much thought Buffy Sainte-Marie before and honestly it's just simply that I hadn't been exposed enough to her, her music, or her legacy.

After reading Andrea Warner's biography though, I've filled up my phone with Sainte-Marie's songs I need to listen to, realize that a large part of the reason I'm so in the dark about her music is by design (it's revealed that she was blacklisted from much tv and radio just as her career should have been exploding largely due to her race, gender, and activism), and that Buffy Sainte-Marie belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I should also say that Warner's biography is one of the best I've read, regardless of the subject. Too often I've read biographies that pretend they're not biased when they're really about either exposing a bad side or promoting an artist. Warner is upfront that she's a fan. But she's not a fawning fan. She analyzes Saint-Marie's work with critical depth and uses Sainte-Marie's own words to push the narrative forward (as close to an autobiography as you could get without being one). It's balanced, enlightening, inspiring, and engaging. I really felt I got a sense of Buffy Sainte-Marie and her music even without yet having a chance to go back and explore her music more fully.

One of the biggest surprises for me personally were the the number of musicians that covered her songs, especially back in the 60s, including the likes of Cher and Elvis Presley, though even Hole covered one of her songs in the 90s. I think this in itself shows how much of an influence and how great a songwriter she was.

Of course, beyond that, her tireless activism, especially for the rights and recognition of indigenous peoples are even more of a reason she should be in the Rock Hall (which is also in dire need of more diversity).


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