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Buffy Sainte-Marie will turn 82 years old on Monday, February 20.
Sainte-Marie was born in Saskatchewan, Cananda in 1941 to Cree parents, but was taken away from her family during a period when the Canadian government authorized child welfare authorities to remove Indigenous children from their homes to be adopted and schooled by white families. She grew up outside of Boston and attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst as an undergrad. There she met fellow student and musician Henry St. Claire Fredericks, Jr. aka Taj Mahal.
Sainte-Marie’s first albums were released by Vanguard Records during the height of the 1960s folk revival and include songs like “Universal Soldier” and “My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying.” Artists who have covered her material on stage or in studio include, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Donovan, and Glen Campbell.
In 1983, Sainte-Marie became the first Indigenous American to win an Academy Award for co-writing the song “Up Where We Belong,” which was recorded by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for the film An Officer and a Gentleman and made it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
Here’s the trailer from the recent American Masters documentary on PBS.