Julie's Reviews > Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography

Buffy Sainte-Marie by Andrea Warner
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bookshelves: biography, paperback, librarything-early-reviews, music, performance-arts, 2019

Buffy Sainte- Marie: The Authorized Biography by Andrea Warner is a 2018 Greystone Books publication.

Between the ages of five and seven, I liked the am pop radio stations that came in clear enough in my small rural location. Those stations were more apt to play ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’ by Nancy Sinatra than anything remotely folk sounding. However, folk music was all over the television in prime time variety shows, the news and other mediums and we even sang some generic folk songs in our music class at school. I loved it, to be honest. My mother allowed me, at the ripe old age of seven to buy Judy Collins and Joan Baez records, and I nearly wore them out- before I fell in love with David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman and The Osmond Brothers, that is. 😊

I never really connected to folk music in the same way again, until I was much older. But, folk music was never a genre I was well versed in. I knew the heavy hitters from the sixties and seventies, but never scratched too far beneath the surface. So, to be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Buffy Sainte-Marie- although now, I realize I was marginally aware of one or two of her songs. Therefore, this is really my first introduction to her and her background.

For anyone else like me, who are mostly unfamiliar with this artist, Buffy is a Cree member- one of the largest groups of First Nations in Canada and has an Indigenous heritage. Her background has led her to focus on the rights and freedoms of the Indigenous people.



Her musical abilities are natural and self-taught, and her songs, while ever changing, usually stuck with themes of peace over war and the individual’s responsibility in helping to prevent further bloodshed. Her message truly resonated with the anti-war sentiment in the sixties and her signature song, ‘Universal Soldier’ became an anthem.

Yet, Buffy never did cross over into the mainstream the way her white counterparts did. She remained out of the public glare, while commanding the respect of many other folk musicians. Her songs were recorded and covered by Elvis, Glen Campbell, and Donavon, just to name a few. But, her personal life remained an enigma- maybe even to some of her biggest fans.

This book takes the reader back to Buffy’s troubled childhood, which explains a lot about her aversion to socializing and publicity tactics. We follow her through her early years in the music business, her struggles with publishing rights, and her activism. She was even a regular on Sesame Street for a time until budget cuts forced her out. Her private life was also examined, which was not always easy to read about, so be prepared for a few uncomfortable passages.

However, once most of these bad patches were behind her, Buffy carved out a niche for herself and although still active musically, she put a lot of her energy behind teaching and education, paving the way for indigenous people in more ways than she is credited for, opening doors for them in many areas, including music.

I liked the fact that this was an authorized biography. The author has the permission to print and publish anything she wished with her subject’s permission, which to me, says a lot. One thing I always look for in a biography is organization. This book has a nice presentation, mostly done in the traditional chronological way. She named each chapter after one of Buffy’s songs, which was a nice touch, I thought.

While Buffy’s life has certainly been extraordinary, her music important and emotional, the book, at times, is a bit dry. It is also rather brief, and I’m not entirely sure how well it fully captured Buffy’s persona or spirit.

Other than that, the book is certainly worth checking out. I knew little or nothing about this artist and am glad to have discovered her. I learned more insights into the music business, how Buffy survived on the fringes of major, household name, success and was impressed by her musical abilities after watching a few YouTube videos. However, I also learned a lot about First Nations and the many challenges facing Indigenous people.

From a personal standpoint, I admired Buffy’s forthrightness, and her boldness and courage. I see in her a little bit of a kindred spirit in that she sees through a lot of smoke and mirrors and refuses to play the required games. She was a true pioneer and a real life rebel- which always comes at a cost. She lives her life on her own terms and is someone who seems to need space away from the crowds and too much peopling. I can relate to that, but I’m happy she still performs, records, writes and is still a strong advocate.

This is a quick and easy read, but also an interesting outline of Buffy Sainte -Maire’s life and times.

4 stars

*I was provided an advance reader’s copy of this book as a part of LibraryThing’s early review program.
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Reading Progress

December 27, 2018 – Shelved
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: biography
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: paperback
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: librarything-early-reviews
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: music
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: performance-arts
January 5, 2019 – Started Reading
January 5, 2019 – Shelved as: 2019
January 5, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-50 of 54 (54 new)


message 1: by Mads (new)

Mads Happy reading xx


Julie Mads wrote: "Happy reading xx"

Thank you, Mads! 😊


message 3: by KAS (new)

KAS First time I am hearing about this artist, Julie ;) Glad this was a well written biography and you enjoyed delving into her life and career. Outstanding review!! 😘❤️


Julie KAS wrote: "First time I am hearing about this artist, Julie ;) Glad this was a well written biography and you enjoyed delving into her life and career. Outstanding review!! 😘❤️"

Thank you, KAS!! I hadn't heard of her either. Apparently she's well known in the world of folk music and I suppose for those of a certain era that was a bit before my time. Very interesting person.


Norma * Traveling Sister Wonderful review, Julie! I have heard of this artist and might give this one a go!


message 6: by Julie (last edited Jan 05, 2019 08:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Julie Norma * Traveling Sister wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie! I have heard of this artist and might give this one a go!"

Thank you, Norma!! Her life certainly has been interesting. Let me know if you decide to read it. I'd love to get your opinion of it! 💖


message 7: by Chris (new)

Chris Mara Julie, I do recall her name, but could not easily remember her song(s) or her background. Reading your review now, and also checking out her life story on Wikipedia, she is a phenomenal woman who has and continues to be, a leader and founder of various good will and educational projects. I do now remember her song “Universal Soldier.” I’ve decided I am going to read this one!


Julie Chris wrote: "Julie, I do recall her name, but could not easily remember her song(s) or her background. Reading your review now, and also checking out her life story on Wikipedia, she is a phenomenal woman who h..."

Thank you, Chris! I hope you enjoy the book, I agree, she has lived an accomplished life. I also remember Universal Soldier, but didn't connect the dots until I got this book. Powerful song! 😊


message 9: by Jaline (new)

Jaline What an amazing review, Julie! You took me on a wonderful walk through my own past (Buffy Sainte-Marie influenced many of my song choices when I was in music) and I enjoyed the nostalgia of the journey. Thank you so much! 😊


message 10: by *TUDOR^QUEEN* (new)

*TUDOR^QUEEN* Wonderful review, Julie! I confess I know nothing about this artist, but sometimes those biographies are more interesting to delve into...just to learn about someone from ground zero. I very much enjoyed your personal touch and very detailed review :-D


Julie Jaline wrote: "What an amazing review, Julie! You took me on a wonderful walk through my own past (Buffy Sainte-Marie influenced many of my song choices when I was in music) and I enjoyed the nostalgia of the jou..."

Thank you, Jaline!! I'm so glad I read this book! What an amazing person! As you are more familiar with her work, you would probably enjoy this intimate look at her life. 💖


Julie *TUDOR^QUEEN* wrote: "Wonderful review, Julie! I confess I know nothing about this artist, but sometimes those biographies are more interesting to delve into...just to learn about someone from ground zero. I very much e..."

Thank you, TQ! I didn't know about her either, but you are right, these bios are often even more interesting, A great discovery! 💖


message 13: by JanB (new)

JanB Great review Julie. I just looked her up and how interesting, especially her claim that she was blacklisted.


message 14: by Supratim (new)

Supratim Great review, Julie! :)


message 15: by Donna (new)

Donna Davis I love this artist. For a Cree woman to even make it onto the radio back then was a feat in itself. Such a distinctive voice; a powerful storyteller with the world's widest vibrato. Thank you for an excellent review, as well as the trip back in time.


message 16: by Nicola (new)

Nicola Gipson Excellent review Julie! I’ve never heard of this artist. I will enjoy looking her up and listening to her songs. 😊


message 17: by Carolyn (new)

Carolyn Awesome review, Julie. Yes, I remember her. Always a brief appearance here and there in the 60's, if I recall. The book sounds fascinating.

By the way, I loved Bobby Sherman too. Would you believe I still have the T.V. Guide cover in my childhood scrapbook of "Here Come The Brides"? LOL!


message 18: by Susanne (new)

Susanne Strong Fab review Julie!


Julie Susanne wrote: "Fab review Julie!"

Thank you, Susanne!! 😊


Julie Nicola wrote: "Excellent review Julie! I’ve never heard of this artist. I will enjoy looking her up and listening to her songs. 😊"

Thank you, Nicola! For someone who doesn't read music, she has an amazing ability and a very unique voice. 😊


Julie Carolyn wrote: "Awesome review, Julie. Yes, I remember her. Always a brief appearance here and there in the 60's, if I recall. The book sounds fascinating.

By the way, I loved Bobby Sherman too. Would you believ..."


Thank you, Carolyn!! Oh, how I wish I'd saved some of those magazines and other memorabilia from those days! I remember the David Cassidy and Bobby Sherman wars in all the teen magazines. 😊💖😊


Julie JanB wrote: "Great review Julie. I just looked her up and how interesting, especially her claim that she was blacklisted."

Thank you, Jan! Yes, she found out she was blacklisted by the Nixon administration by accident, really. It was news to her. But, she survived it, like so many other obstacles in her life. 😊


Julie Donna wrote: "I love this artist. For a Cree woman to even make it onto the radio back then was a feat in itself. Such a distinctive voice; a powerful storyteller with the world's widest vibrato. Thank you for a..."
Thank you, Donna!! I agree, her voice!! All natural talent, too. She couldn't even read music. Incredible!


Julie Supratim wrote: "Great review, Julie! :)"

Thank you, Supratim!! 😊


message 25: by Sallie (new) - added it

Sallie Dunn This is one great review and you made me want to read this book!


Julie Sallie wrote: "This is one great review and you made me want to read this book!"

Thank you, Sallie!! I hope you will add it to your TBR. Fascinating bio!! 😊


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader I learned so much about her through your review, Julie! And now I’m intrigued by her! ♥️


Julie Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "I learned so much about her through your review, Julie! And now I’m intrigued by her! ♥️"

Thank you, Jennifer!! She is certainly a talented and unique person who spreads a powerful message. 💖


message 29: by Mackenzie (new)

Mackenzie Fantastic review, Julie! Sounds like a cool artist to look into :)


Julie Mackenzie wrote: "Fantastic review, Julie! Sounds like a cool artist to look into :)"

Thank you, Mackenzie!! She really is a very impressive person.💖


message 31: by Kat (new)

Kat Valentine Excellent review Julie!💖😉


Julie Kat wrote: "Excellent review Julie!💖😉"

Thank you, Kat!! 💖😊💖


message 33: by Tina (new)

Tina Great in-depth review Julie! :)


Julie Tina wrote: "Great in-depth review Julie! :)"

Thank you, Tina!! 💖


message 35: by Roland (new) - added it

Roland Clarke An artist and a campaigner I've admired for decades - great review, thanks.


message 36: by Bookish Ally (new)

Bookish Ally Masterful review!


message 37: by Meredith (new)

Meredith Wonderful and insightful review, Julie!


Julie Roland wrote: "An artist and a campaigner I've admired for decades - great review, thanks."

Thank you, Roland!! 😊😊


Julie Bookish Ally wrote: "Masterful review!"

Thank you, Ally!! 😊😊


Julie Meredith wrote: "Wonderful and insightful review, Julie!"

Thank you, Meredith!! 😊😊


Kaceey - Traveling Sister Fabulous review Julie!🤗💜


Julie Kaceey - Traveling Sister wrote: "Fabulous review Julie!🤗💜"


Thank you, Kaceey!! 😊😊


message 43: by Sandra (new)

Sandra Brilliant review Julie! :D


Julie Sandra wrote: "Brilliant review Julie! :D"

Thank you, Sandra!! 💖


message 45: by Kendall (new)

Kendall Fantastic review Julie!!! 😊❤️


message 46: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Another excellent review, Julie!! <3


message 47: by Angela M (new)

Angela M Lovely review, Julie.


Julie Kendall wrote: "Fantastic review Julie!!! 😊❤️"

Thank you, Kendall!! 😊😊


Julie Angela M wrote: "Lovely review, Julie."

Thank you, Angela!! 😊😊


Julie Deanna wrote: "Another excellent review, Julie!! <3"

Thank you, Deanna!!😊😊


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