I just got my latest issue of Bust magazine (one of my fave reads-- the thinking woman's Cosmo, I like to call it) in the mail, and I was excited to see an article about Buffy Saint-Marie. Buffy started her career as a folk singer in the wild and wacky 60s, and I knew about her because my friend Angela in high school had her record Illuminations:
I didn't really get folk music back then, since I was mostly into goth and British guitar bands, but I totally got her cool "Vampire" song. That chilling voice with its sustained vibrato, that haunting melody and dark lyrics-- amazing.
Even though all the big names covered her songs at one point or another (she wrote songs that were huge hits for Donovan, Chet Atkins, Janis Joplin, and Taj Mahal- even Elvis covered her music!), I personally don't recall that Buffy was ever considered "cool" until the recent Folk Revival. Come to find out this was probably because her music was blacklisted for decades in the U.S., due to her strong political stance. She continued to play in Europe, but her main venue in the U.S. was as a regular member of Sesame Street. She even breast fed her son on one groundbreaking episode!
A few months back I found this record in a clearance bin, and I picked it up based on the merit of the remembered "Vampire" song, and of course also for the great outfit on the cover:
Some of the phrasing on the more playful songs actually sounds quite a bit like our homegirl Joanna Newsome, but when that vibrato cuts through, there is no doubt that this powerful voice belongs to Buffy and Buffy alone.
She lives in Kauai these days (jealous) and she has a new album coming out; you can check out her music here. Mad props to this powerful women who paved the way for all of us!