Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Powerful Anti-War Ballad “Universal Soldier”

Universal Soldier” was originally written by Canadian singer-songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie, in 1964 during the height of the Vietnam War.

The song was released on her debut album, It’s My Way!, and quickly became an anthem for the anti-war movement. The song’s lyrics speak to the idea that soldiers are often sent to fight wars they do not believe in and that they are ultimately victims of a system that perpetuates war and violence.

The song’s opening lines, “He’s five feet two and he’s six feet four, he fights with missiles and with spears,” speak to the idea that soldiers are often seen as larger-than-life figures, but are ultimately human beings who are vulnerable and can be hurt just like anyone else. The chorus of the song, “He’s the universal soldier, and he really is to blame,” points to the idea that soldiers are not solely responsible for the violence and destruction of war, but rather are victims of a system that perpetuates it.

Sainte-Marie’s powerful lyrics were made even more impactful by the haunting melody that accompanied them. The song’s melody is simple and repetitive, allowing the listener to focus on the lyrics and the message they convey. The combination of the lyrics and melody creates a sense of sadness and urgency that is still felt today, over five decades after the song was first released.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie is an important figure in Canadian heritage and culture, whose music, activism, and advocacy have made a lasting impact on generations of Canadians. Her artistry and dedication to social justice have inspired countless people around the world, and her legacy continues to resonate today. Buffy Sainte-Marie is a true Canadian icon, and her contributions to our cultural heritage will be celebrated for generations to come.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie is a legendary Canadian artist, known for her exceptional talent as a singer, songwriter, guitarist, visual artist, educator, and social activist. She is considered an iconic figure in Canadian Music History, and her contributions to the Cultural Heritage of Canada cannot be overstated.

A tribute to Buffy Sainte-Marie’s extraordinary life and career.

A captivating documentary on the life, music, and activism of legendary Indigenous singer-songwriter Buffy SainteMarie. 

Read more about the documentary Carry It On

Born on the Piapot Cree First Nations Reserve in Saskatchewan in 1941, Sainte-Marie faced adversity from a young age. However, she excelled academically, earning a degree in teaching and a Ph.D. in fine arts from the University of Massachusetts. And it was her musical talents that brought her to the forefront of Canadian culture.

Sainte-Marie’s music reflects her deep connection to her Indigenous heritage, as well as her commitment to social justice. Her early work, including the iconic protest song “Universal Soldier,” helped to define the political landscape of the 1960s and 70s, inspiring people to take action against war, poverty, and discrimination. Her music also celebrates the cultural traditions of Indigenous peoples, about their struggles and resilience.

Sainte-Marie’s influence on Canadian music and culture is huge. She was one of the first Indigenous artists to achieve mainstream success, winning a Juno Award for Best Folk Album in 1965, and later achieved international acclaim with hits like “Up Where We Belong” and “Until It’s Time for You to Go.” She was also the first indigenous woman to win an Academy Award, for the song “Up Where We Belong,” which she co-wrote with Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings and which was featured in the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

Buffy advocates for Indigenous Rights

In addition to her music, Sainte-Marie has been an advocate for Indigenous rights and education throughout her career. She has worked to promote Indigenous culture and language, helping to establish the Cradleboard Teaching Project, which provides educational resources for Indigenous youth, and the Nihewan Foundation for Indigenous Education, which aims to improve access to education for Indigenous peoples worldwide.

An icon in Canadian Music History

Sainte-Marie’s contributions to Canadian culture and heritage have been recognized with numerous awards and accolades, including induction into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, the Order of Canada, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame. She has also been honoured by the Native American Music Awards, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Awards, and the Polaris Music Prize.


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