Too Awesome for Words 3
This is Indigenous Canadian “folk singer” Buffy Sainte-Marie singing “Little Wheel Spin and Spin” one her most beautiful songs if not the most beautiful. I’m not sure when she wrote the song but she released it on an album of the same name in 1966, when she was 25. It is extraordinary to me that she could create something like this while so young; the song feels old or rather timeless, like it could almost have been written in the Middle Ages. The words are eerily powerful, and the subtle way she touches the guitar strings, the nuance in her voice, the piercing movement of her eyes—she says things with her eyes I could not put into words. But I feel the depth of reckoning, the strength and fatefulness, the feeling of something inevitable underlying everything we do. (Striking and strange: she starts playing one-handed, with her left arm hanging at her side.)
I put folk singer in quotes because although that is how she was identified for much of her career, Sainte-Marie didn’t call herself that—she considered herself a ‘multi-media person’ and she was. She was a visual artist (who made great use of the internet in the 90s!) an actress, a teacher, a philanthropist and an activist focused on the history and support of indigenous peoples—so forcefully that she was blacklisted by mainstream American radio stations during the 1970s. According to Sainte-Marie’s Wiki page, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon actually wrote letters supporting the stations that blacklisted her which is, given those personalities, believable. As her fellow musician Taj Mahal remarked in a 2006 documentary about her: “Here were these big bad guys who were running the world and they were afraid of a woman with a guitar!” Perhaps they had some reason to be afraid.
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