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Buffy Sainte-Marie lifts lid on censorship Print-ready version

by Danielle McGrane
Australian Associated Press
December 16, 2016

Buffy Sainte-Marie is the Canadian folk singer who helped make Joni Mitchell famous and played Leonard Cohen songs before the troubadour himself even did.

More recently, she also giggled when she found out her old friend Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"Isn't that funny? I thought it was funny that he didn't acknowledge it. It's just typical Bob," Sainte-Marie told AAP.

"I got to spend some time with him at Byron Bay a couple of years ago at the Byron Bay Blues Festival, we had some fun. We had some laughs. We're old buddies from (New York's Greenwich) Village."

She remains steadfastly supportive of her fellow singer-songwriters and that goes right back to the 1960s when folk artists like Dylan, Cohen and Mitchell were just breaking on to the scene.

"I have recorded several of his (Cohen's) songs. I played his songs when nobody played his songs, when nobody wanted to know. When they didn't want to even know his name," she said.

"And Joni Mitchell too, nobody wanted to play Joni Mitchell. She couldn't get a record deal until I brought her to Elliot Roberts as a manager and jump started her career. Sometimes artists have to do that for one another."

Sainte-Marie is well awarded. The Native Canadian folk singer has won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for writing the song Up Where We Belong from the film An Officer and a Gentleman. And she's won several Junos, Canada's musical awards.

But she's perhaps best known for her protest songs like Universal Soldier or her account of addiction in Cod'ine which was covered by Janis Joplin, Donovan and Courtney Love.

Not that long ago, the 75-year-old says she discovered a lot of her music had been kept from the radio in the 1960s by the US government.

"A radio broadcaster brought it to my attention that he was apologising to me for having gone along with letters written on White House stationery during the Lyndon Johnson administration commending him for having suppressed my music which he said deserves to be suppressed," she said.

"There were several people involved, Eartha Kitt, Taj Mahal, several of us went through it during that time."

Sainte-Marie released her last album, the rousing Power In The Blood last year but her next record will include some of those long ago censored songs, including Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Universal Soldier which may be on her playlist when she performs at the upcoming Woodford Folk Festival this month in Queensland.

"The whole idea for me is to be effective," she said.

"It's not just to go and get your name in the paper, I did that a long time ago. But you really do try to influence things and there's an art to that where you don't go over the top and turn people off or bore them."

* Woodford Folk Festival takes place in Woodfordia, Queensland from December 27 - January 1

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