Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Buffy Sainte-Marie's political activism would lead her to be largely blacklisted from commercial radio in the '70s. (Photo: Sean Richardson/flickr/cc)

Singing Her Own Song for Decades, Buffy Sainte-Marie Picks Up Prestigious Prize

Sainte-Marie's album Power in the Blood—her 21st—beat nine other finalists for the award

Deirdre Fulton

Cree First Nation singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, 74, is the 2015 winner of Canada's Polaris Music Prize, bestowed annually by a jury of music critics, bloggers, and broadcasters to one album deemed to have the most "artistic merit" regardless of genre, sales, or label.

Sainte-Marie's album Power in the Blood—her 21st—beat nine other finalists for the award, including rapper Drake, former Polaris winner Caribou, and Toronto rock band Alvvays. The Polaris prize comes with a $50,000 award.

"I've got an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, a couple of Junos and a Gemini Award—this is the only one I ever heard that gives the artist money," she said upon accepting the prize. "It's real important, it's becoming almost impossible for an artist to tour with a band and with instruments."

The artist developed her sound in Toronto and New York City's Greenwich Village as part of the early- to mid-1960s folk scene, often alongside other emerging Canadian contemporaries such as Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell. Her songs have addressed everything from war and peace to Indigenous rights to the vapidity of show business.

"Ms. Sainte-Marie's album, which ranges in genre from blues to rockabilly, is the most overtly activist album to win in Polaris’s history," writes the Globe and Mail. "It includes songs such as 'The Uranium War' and modified versions of UB40’s 'Sing Our Own Song,' and Alabama 3’s 'Power in the Blood,' which chastise corporate greed and support the Idle No More movement."

Speaking of her "Sing Our Own Song" cover, Sainte-Marie told Macleans earlier this year:

Indigenous people throughout the world [are] speaking out and making small changes that the big headline folks aren’t aware of—until a little bit later. The input of Idle No More has been a lightning rod for people who were already thinking this way. We are reaching clarities on bigger issues like fracking and GMOs and climate change. Aboriginal people in—just name any country—are right on the edge of it. We are the ones that get fracked and we are the first ones who see it.

Watch Sainte-Marie talk about the evolution of her anti-war stance, before singing "Universal Soldier," her anti-war anthem which she says was written the basement of Toronto's Purple Onion coffee house in the early sixties:

And she spoke to Democracy Now! in May:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·

Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo