Music Notes: November 1 – 15, 2015

Buffy Sainte Marie wins Polaris

Buffy Sainte-Marie is the winner of the 2015 Polaris Prize, given annually to the best full-length Canadian music album. The $50,000 award is based upon artistic merit, regardless of genre, sales, or record label. Sainte-Marie’s recording, “Power in the Blood”, was released last spring to wide acclaim for its brilliant synthesis of rock, folk, electronics, and indigenous traditional music. The lyrics are both timely and timeless, reflecting contemporary issues through the prism of her spiritual and political convictions. There is truth in her vibrato-rich voice, still compelling after all these years. Buffy Sainte-Marie was born in 1941 on the Cree First Nation in Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan. After achieving international acclaim during the folk boom of the sixties, she sustained her career as a musician, and became an accomplished visual artist and educator. Throughout her career she has been a consistent champion of indigenous rights, the environment, and equality. It’s interesting that she beat out mega-selling Canadian hip-hop superstar, Drake, for the prize. Kudos to the Polaris Prize judges for picking a truly worthy winner. For more info:

Roger Waters pens open letter to Bon Jovi

Former Pink Floyd bassist and prominent BDS campaigner Roger Waters published an open letter to American rock band, Bon Jovi, prior to their Oct. 3 concert in Tel Aviv. The letter, published at, accused lead singer Jon Bon Jovi and his band-mates of choosing to be complicit with Israeli crimes. Waters’ letter was a response to a September interview in the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, wherein the singer declared his enthusiasm for the visit. Asked about Roger Waters and the BDS campaign, Bon Jovi replied “it doesn’t interest me.” Here are a few snippets from Waters’ open letter: “You stand shoulder to shoulder with the settler who burned the baby, the bulldozer driver who crushed Rachel Corrie, the soldier who shot the soccer player’s feet to bits, the sniper who emptied his clip into the 13-year-old girl, and the Minister of Justice who called for genocide. You had a chance to stand on the side of justice with the pilot who refused to bomb refugee camps, the teenager who chose eight prison terms over army service, and the prisoner who fasted for 266 days.”

Neil Young gives Blue Dot Campaign $100K

Canadian rocker Neil Young slammed the dismal environmental record of the Canadian government at an Oct. 6 press conference in Vancouver. With scientist and broadcaster David Suzuki at his side, the 69-year-old musician announced that he was donating $100,000 to the Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot Campaign. Launched last year, the Blue Dot Campaign calls for enshrining the right of Canadians to live in a healthy environment in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Young said “the Blue Dot movement actually gives people who care about the earth, and the way they live, a platform, a legal platform, that is possible to use as a tool when taking on the aggression of the multinational corporations in their quest for more cash at the expense of the environment and our life – and all life.” The Blue Dot was chosen by the Suzuki Foundation to symbolize the earth as seen from outer space. Since it was founded last year the campaign has been accompanied by an ongoing tour featuring Suzuki with a host of artists and prominent Canadians, including Young, Margaret Atwood, Bruce Cockburn, Feist, Stephen Lewis and Robert Bateman. For more info:

“He Ain’t Dead”: Remembering Joe Hill

November 19th marks a day to remember the legendary working-class troubadour Joe Hill. On this day in 1915, one hundred years ago, the 33-year-old Swedish immigrant was executed by a firing squad in the prison yard of the Utah State Penitentiary. He’d been accused on circumstantial evidence of killing a Salt Lake City grocer. Hill’s trial was an international cause-célèbre, with even President Woodrow Wilson calling for clemency. But the mining bosses were looking for a union activist scapegoat, so he was convicted and shot. Joe Hill was a militant with the Industrial Workers of the World. The union arranged for his body to be transported to Chicago for the funeral, which was attended by 30,000 mourners. Conveniently, the bulk of the court records of his trial disappeared. It took until 2011 to establish conclusive proof of his innocence (see William M. Adler’s 2011 book “The Man Who Never Died”). Joe Hill’s noble spirit and stirring songs have been embraced by working people everywhere. “The Preacher and the Slave”, “Casey Jones”, “Where the Fraser River Flows”, and “There is Power in a Union” are just a few of his many enduring anthems. One of many observations of the centenary of Joe’s death will take place at the Hirut Restaurant, 2050 Danforth Avenue, in Toronto on November 19, starting at 7:30. Call 416-556-3513 for more information.

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