Buffy Sainte-Marie off somewhere at the Bottom Line in 1974.
Though always my favorite of the singer songwriters, it’s funny to see what a challenge she proved to photographers who almost invariably failed to capture her intensity. It’s a shame, really, because in the days before video and online performances, photographs and vinyl were the only way most people ever got to experience a musician. Good photographs could make a legend, to this day we tend to recognize the artists who photographed well. Buffy Sainte-Marie was perhaps a bit beyond what photographers could see then, not that you could blame them, publicity and stereotypes were all about wind blown hippies or Joan Baez, and Buffy was neither. Still, photographer Waring Abbot caught a glimpse of something here on a spring night in New York City in 1974.
Never have understood why this album stubbornly resists a revival. I suppose it’s not pretty enough, and too edgy, and her American Indian vibrato bothers people. I can’t think of a single other folk album that has anywhere near this kind of ferocity. Uncompromising. It won’t make you feel any better about yourself. It might even make you feel just plain lousy. Now That The Buffalo’s Gone is not aimed at the Man, it’s aimed at everyone who’s not a tribal member. Even you there with the feathers and the Cherokee great great grandmother. That song is aimed right at you. As such, it’s gospel among American Indians. They all came up on this record. We have Dylan or whoever. They have this. Somewhere I have a YouTube video of a seventy-something Buffy Sainte-Marie performing Cod’ine in a casino on a reservation deep in the American northwest. The room is packed with tribals and hippies, and her performance is bone chilling and as the last quavering note fades the air is rent by war cries and ululations.