Illuminated

Listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie

I first met Buffy Sainte-Marie in the basement of Massey Hall to interview her for an article I was writing. She was hunched over, reading newspaper clippings that decorated the walls. As soon as she heard me approach she turned, offering a smile that melted my anxiety into warm affection. Trying to keep your journalistic wits about you when interviewing someone as charismatic and charming as Sainte-Marie is no easy task. I’m sure my critical skills all but disappeared that day, and when I sat down to write I wanted to convey to readers only what it was like to hear Sainte-Marie walk you carefully through her thoughts, to show how her words had felt like a door to a secret, beautiful world; to share how she humanized and empathized with nearly every person she spoke of, even those who treated her badly.

Reading Andrea Warner’s authorized biography, it’s easy to see Sainte-Marie’s charm won Warner over, too...