Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Big Ones Get Away (1992)

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Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Big Ones Get Away
Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Big Ones Get Away (1992)

There are three distinct but overlapping public faces of Native American singer/songwriter Sainte-Marie: the woman who wrote and sang Universal Soldier and the theme to the film Soldier Blue in the Sixties; the permanent cast member of Sesame Street between '76 and '81; and a lifelong activist in the Native American movement.

But there was always much more to her: she is a much exhibited digital artist; her early song Cod'ine was covered by the Charlatans and Qucksilver Messenger Service in the San Francisco hippie era; one of her marriages was to producer/arranger Jack Nitzsche (he orchestrated River Deep Mountain High for Phil Spector, played keyboards on albums for the emerging Rolling Stones, wrote the soundtrack to One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest); she co-wrote the Grammy-winning Joe Cocker-Jennifer Warnes hit Up Where We Belong with Nitzsche and Will Jennings; has worked for any number of Native American and charitable causes . . .

Her music career was erratic for a while and after 15 years away she returned in '92 with the remarkable album Coincidence and Likely Stories which included memorable songs such as Bad End, Disinformation, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and others which were thrilling in their emotional power and soaked with honesty and truth.

She played almost every instrument herself and spoke of corrupt politics, the struggle of the Native American movement, and the dangers any radical faces when confronting the system ("my girlfriend Annie Mae talked about uranium, her head was filled with bullets and her body dumped, the FBI cut off her hands and told us she'd died of exposure").

It was tough stuff but there were also songs of love and of the solace nature can offer.

The sadness at the heart of The Big Ones Get Away is leavened by the supportive love she offers her partner. And lines like "don't the wars come easy, don't the peace come hard" are, sadly, still universally true. 

For more one-off great or unusual songs see From the Vaults

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