Young Buffy Sainte-Marie In The '60s: A Native American Folk Prodigy

By | November 8, 2018

test article image
Buffy Sainte-Marie in a studio portrait from 1969; Buffy Sainte-Marie in concert in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1968. Source: Jack Robinson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images; Wikimedia Commons

Folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Canadian First Nations artist, got her start in the folk music revival of the early 1960s. With tunes like "Now That The Buffalo's Gone" and "Universal Soldier," she addressed the treatment of American Indians and the injustice of war. Her songs have been recorded by Donovan, Janis Joplin, Glen Campbell, Don Williams, Elvis Presley, Cher, Petula Clark and dozens of other artists. Sainte-Marie had her biggest chart success with "Up Where We Belong," a song she co-wrote that was performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack of An Officer And A Gentleman (1982) and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The folk music revival reached its peak in the 1960s, thanks in part to singers like Buffy Sainte-Marie. Embracing her indigenous Cree heritage, Sainte-Marie penned songs that spoke of the issues and concerns of the Native Americans, as well as problems facing the environment and conservation. Sainte-Marie was an activist in the groovy era and remains so today, using her music to inspire and educate. 

Folk Music Enjoyed A Spike In Popularity In The Sixties

test article image

During the sixties, folk music often included elements of social and political unrest, making the genre popular in the counterculture movement. At first, folk artists kept their public performances small and intimate, preferring to play at coffee houses, sing-alongs, hootenannies and in open-air concerts in the park. But as more and more fans were drawn to the messages in the folk songs and their audiences grew, folk artists moved to large concert halls, music festivals and college campuses.