Saturday, July 04, 2020

Buffy Sainte-Marie's “America the Beautiful”

Here's something very special for this year's Fourth of July . . . It's Buffy Sainte-Marie's “Indigenous version” of “America the Beautiful,” about which she says:

“America the Beautiful” has been recorded by so many different people, and it’s also had verses added by many, many people. You go on the internet, and you’ll see there’s all kinds of verses from all kinds of perspectives. I mean, some of them are really kind of racist, and others are just kind of natural and beautiful.

But my friend John Herrington was the first Native American astronaut. And when he was going to get his ride, NASA invited me to sing and invited a whole lot people to come from his reservation, Chickasaw reservation in Oklahoma. And I had been thinking about “America the Beautiful,” so I wrote new verses for it, and I also wrote an introduction for it. It says, “There were Choctaws in Alabama, Chippewas in Saint Paul. Mississippi mud runs like a river in me. America, ooh, she’s like a mother to me.” . . . And the verses continue from there, with small changes, and then there’s a middle section, too.

But it really reflects kind of a different approach to America than you usually see in the headlines. It’s about America the country, not America the nation state. It’s about the real America that so many people, regardless of their political associations, really feel in their hearts – you know, this beautiful, beautiful place. So, it’s yet another take on “America the Beautiful.” People seem to enjoy it.


This past May, Buffy performed her version of “America the Beautiful” from her home in Hawaii during the the Junos 365 Songwriters’ Circle, a series of five virtual events featuring some of Canada’s best songwriters telling the stories behind their songs and performing from home. Adapted from the popular Juno Week event that was cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic. Enjoy!




There were Choctaws in Alabama
Chippewas in St. Paul
Mississippi mud runs like a river in me
America – Oo she's like a mother to me

O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesty
Above the fruited plains

America, America
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea
From sea to shining sea

There were cliff towns in Colorado
Pyramids in Illinois
Trade routes up and down the Mississippi River to see
America – Oo she's like a mother to me

O beautiful for vision clear
That shines beyond the years
Thy night time sky
Our hopes that fly
Beyond all human tears

America, America
God shed His grace on thee
Til selfish gains no longer stain
The banner of the free

And crown thy good with brother and sisterhood
From sea to shining sea



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Ibram X. Kendi: “Patriotism on the Fourth of July is Resistance”
Michael Sean Winters on 2018's Grim Fourth of July
Queer Native Americans, Colonialism, and the Fourth of July
Michael Greyeyes’ Latest Film Provides a “New Understanding of How History Repeats”


Related Off-site Links:
Fourth of July Musings: The Curse of Exceptionalism and the Perils of Patriotism – Danny Sjursen (Scheer Post, July 2, 2020).
Trump Uses Mount Rushmore Speech to Deliver Divisive Culture War Message – Annie Karni (The New York Times, July 3, 2020).
Treaty Defenders Block Road Leading to Mount Rushmore – Mary Annette Pember (Indian Country Today, July 3, 2020).
American Indian Protesters Told to “Go Home” by Trump Supporters at Mount Rushmore – Levi Rickert (Native News Online, July 4, 2020).
Native Americans and Mount RushmorePBS.org.
The Hollow Man and the Fourth of July Fireworks – David Weiss (Full Frontal Faith, July 5, 2020).


For The Wild Reed's special series of posts leading-up to the November 10, 2017 release of Buffy's latest album, Medicine Songs, see:
For Acclaimed Songwriter, Activist and Humanitarian Buffy Sainte-Marie, the World is Always Ripening
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “I'm Creative Anywhere”
Buffy Sainte-Marie Headlines SummerStage Festival in NYC's Central Park
Buffy Sainte-Marie, “One of the Best Performers Out Touring Today”
The Music of Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Uprooting the Sources of Disenfranchisement”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Things Do Change and Things Do Get Better”
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Medicine Songs


For The Wild Reed's special series of posts leading-up to the May 12, 2015 release of Buffy's award-winning album, Power in the Blood, see:
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That “Human-Being Magic”
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Lesson from the Cutting Edge: “Go Where You Must to Grow”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient”
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Power in the Blood


For more of Buffy Sainte-Marie at The Wild Reed, see:
A Music Legend Visits the North Country: Buffy Sainte-Marie in Minnesota and Wisconsin – August 2016
Two Exceptional Singers Take a Chance on the "Spirit of the Wind"
Photo of the Day – January 21, 2017
Buffy Sainte-Marie Wins 2015 Polaris Music Prize
Congratulations, Buffy
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2016)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2018)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2019)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2020)
Actually, There's No Question About It
For Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Well-Deserved Honor
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Still Singing with Spirit, Joy, and Passion
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “The Big Ones Get Away”

Buffy-related Off-site Links:
Buffy the Truth Sayer: An Interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie – Mandy Nolan (The Echo, February 13, 2020).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Named As the Recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award – Ian Courtney (Encore, February 14, 2020).
Buffy Sainte-Marie's Authorized Biography Serves As a “Map Of Hope” – Scott Simon and Ian Stewart (NPR News, September 29, 2018).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Tells Her Life Story, Her Way – Sue Carter (The Star, September 29, 2018)
Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jess Moskaluke, and The Dead South Lead Saskatchewan Artists Nominated for Junos – Spencer Leigh (The Independent, January 9, 2018).
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “I Constantly Ask Myself, Where Are the Great Protest Songs of Today? Are People Deaf and Blind?”Regina Leader-Post, (February 6, 2018).
Music as Medicine: Buffy Sainte-Marie Talks Politics, Sex Scandals and Her Brand New Album – Rosanna Deerchild (CBC Radio's Unreserved, November 19, 2017)
Buffy Sainte-Marie Takes a Stand with Medicine SongsET Canada (November 30, 2017).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Makes Music for a New Generation of Activists – Tom Power (CBC Radio, November 17, 2017).
The Unbreakable Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Candid Conversation with the Resilient Songwriter and Activist – Whitney Phaneuf (Acoustic Guitar, January 18, 2017).
What Does Buffy Sainte-Marie Believe? – CBC Radio (December 30, 2016).

Image: Photographer unknown.


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