Buffy Sainte-Marie: It’s My Way

It’s My Way! is the first album by folk singer Buffy Sainte- Marie, released in April 1964 by Vanguard Records. It is a seminal folk album, marking the beginning of an extraordinary career for an extraordinary artist. The album is both scathing and topical, examining the plight of indigenous Americans and critiquing war in the album’s most famous and enduring song, The Universal Soldier.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an indigenous American-Canadian musician, educator, artist and activist. Blacklisted by American radio stations during the 1970s, her music has nevertheless endured. She has managed to successfully cross over from folk protest music to mainstream success, winning an Oscar in 1982 for the song Up Where We Belong which was the iconic song performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes in the film An officer and a Gentleman.

It was Donovan’s version of The Universal Soldier that was the first protest song I heard. It led me to Dylan and Masters of War when I was about fourteen and both songs continue to move me. It is Buffy Sainte-Marie’s version that I prefer to Donovan’s these days as her authenticity and originality touches me deeply.

The album sounds current. The vocal is strong and powerful, particularly on the track Ananias which is the one I have listened to most during my weeks of listening to and appreciating this album. Buffy Sainte-Marie has a voice as distinct and powerful as her contemporaries, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell. Although widely known and highly respected she is arguably not the international household name that she deserves to be, most likely due to her heritage and the racist misogyny that too often undermines women’s careers.

Buffy Sainte-Marie has a string of awards and credits to her name that indicate her power, relevance and artistry. She has remained a life-long advocate and activist for the rights of indigenous peoples. She has the gravitas and grace of a true elder, a woman who rightly commands great respect and who stands up to multiple listenings.

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