Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Remembering, recognizing, and appreciating
February 27, 1903 – December 12, 1951

Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Given our culture’s propensity to caricature Native Americans as noble savages stuck in a care-free stone age, the notion that they have had a significant contribution to mainstream American popular music might be surprising.

It should not be so.

Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey


Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Mildred Bailey’s mother was Native American of the Coeur d’Alene (Schitsu’umsh, meaning “Those who were found here” or  “The discovered people”) tribe. Mildred, born Mildred Rinker, lived her early life on their reservation in Idaho which is about an hour’s drive south of Spokane, Washington.

She had shown an early aptitude for music, playing the family piano throughout her childhood. Around 1913 her family moved to Spokane, but after her mother passed away in 1916, she was sent to live with an aunt in Seattle. As a teenager there she earned money playing in silent-movie houses and demonstrating sheet music for customers at Woolworth’s Department Store.

She married and divorced Ted Bailey, but kept his name because it sounded more American than the German-Rinker.

Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Los Angeles

She found some singing success there and moved to Hollywood to seek more. A white woman singing jazz was unusual.  A “white” woman because, just as some lighter skin African Americans “passed” as whites, Baily hid the fact that she was also a Native American.

Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Brother Al and friend Bing

Mildred’s brother Al played piano.  Al met Bing Crosby in Seattle and the two teamed up.  They eventually went to Los Angeles like Al’s sister and they, too, found a bit of luck when New York band-leader, Paul “The King of Jazz” Whiteman — invited them to become part of  Paul Whiteman’s Rhythm Boys.

In 1929, Rinker introduced Mildred to Whitman who hired her. With that job, Mildred Bailey became first national-level orchestra to feature a female vocalist, Bailey cut her debut recording, “What Kind O’ Man Is You,” for Columbia.

It was in 1932 that Bailey found national success. She debuted  the song “Ol’ Rockin’ Chair’s Got Me.” The song became such a big hit that she became known as the “Rockin’ Chair Lady.”


Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Mildred Bailey

A historylink article said that, “Bailey… gained attention by recording tunes with the same top players who backed Billie Holiday’s classic sessions — and plenty of people took notice of her trail-blazing ways when she began fronting an all-black combo, Mildred Bailey and Her Oxford Browns. Bailey also married jazzman, Red Norvo, they became known as “Mr. and Mrs. Swing,” and his combo backed her on a series of fine hits.”

She and Norvo divorced, but career continued successfully.  She performed at top New York nightclubs and had her own CBS radio series in 1944

Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Still Unknown

To most people,  Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Tony Bennett are household names, but the name Mildred Bailey is not. It is ironic because it was she who influenced their styles.

Bailey suffered from diabetes and she was often forced to put her singing career on hold while she recovered her strength. She died on December 12, 1951 in  Poughkeepsie, NY from a heart attack.

  • In 1994, the US Postal Service issued a 29-cent stamp her honor. The stamp incorrectly has her birth year as 1907.
Jazz Vocalist Mildred Bailey

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

My Woodstock Story

Cuzhero’s  cover of Joni Mitchell’s song via  Youtube

My Woodstock story is a straightforward one. High school friend Tony and I left NJ and got close to the site on Friday night, walked in on Saturday morning, and hitch-hiked back to the car on Sunday afternoon.

I had borrowed my girlfriend’s father’s 35mm camera and his binoculars. I bought one roll of Kodachrome slide film and loaded it into the camera.

As Tony and I walked toward Bethel and the site on Saturday morning I took a few pictures. On Saturday I took several more. Once during the night I took a picture. I finished the roll on Sunday before we left. A few times I experimented and put the binoculars up to the camera’s lens and improvised a telephoto lens.

Tony and I hardly moved the time we were there. We staked out our 8-foot square and only left a few times in an unsuccessful search for food and to use the porta-johns.

Here are those pictures. Click on the picture to “open” it up and see a larger size.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

It was a foggy misty Sullivan County, NY morning. It is interesting today when I show these Rt 17B pictures to friends and guest at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Museum, what they see. Many love looking at the cars and tell me how they had that model or how their neighbor had one like it.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

More parked cars. Traffic was literally at a standstill. The time was approximately 7 AM

My Woodstock Story

We would ask people, “How much farther?” and their answer always was, “Just up ahead.”

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

We do not have one picture of ourselves that weekend other than this picture which includes the back of Tony (blue shirt carrying a sleeping bag). We were getting closer, but we didn’t realize it.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

While most locals were unhappy with the traffic and idea of a rock festival, these enterprising people set up a hot dog and soda stand. $1 a dog; $1 a soda. We decided to wait than pay such a high price.

Woodstock Music Art Fair PicturesWe found a spot a hundred yards + from the stage toward the left, spread out our sleeping bags, and sat down. This guy was in front of us. His hat and umbrella were unusual to me, so I took his picture. The umbrella was a parasol for the sunny afternoon. Saturday was a beautiful day.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Most of my pictures, as you’ll see, were simply of the crowd.

Two lighting towers and the still unfinished artists tent in the background. Enlarge this picture and count the number of rugby (wide-striped) shirts. Now see if you can find any tie-dyed shirts.

Quill. Saturday’s opening act. This is one of the shots through my binoculars.

Woodstock Music Art Fair PicturesWhen you get tired of group shots, you take a picture of a balloon. In the distance you can see one of the large tent areas that another farmers rented space for.

I often ask people to “look for the hippies” in these pictures. You won’t see many.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

After Santana finished “Soul Sacrifice” 500,000 people stood to cheer, applaud, stomp, shout, and whistle. It was a physical event. I stood and took two pictures. This one and the next.

The pink and white tent in the background is the hospital tent. Ask people what the most common medical issue was that weekend and most will answer, “Drug-related.” While that was an issue, the fact that soda and beer cans had pop tops that came off completely and often were thrown on the ground meant that many bare-footed people cut their feet. That was the most common medical issue.

Not a crowd shot, but simple a pack of Marlboro and peace pillow on top of the typical sleeping bag many of us brought. Notice the bare feet.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Another crowd shot. Perhaps there was a reason why, but it’s lost in my memory.Woodstock Music Art Fair PicturesWhen I try to explain who was at the festival, I sometimes half-jokingly say, “White kids getting sunburned.”

Everyone was high? Not quite, but these friendly people offered a hit to Tony and me. We politely declined.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

This lucky guy scored a can of soda. Now he has to find his way back.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Yet another crowd shot. Check again for the rugby shirts v any tie-dyed shirts.

Evening. Hungry. We meandered to the Food for Love tents. Empty. Neither food nor love.


Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

The one night shot. Pretty sure it’s Mountain playing. Note the lighting on the left along the wooden walkway built for staff and musicians to get from the other side of the road to the staging area.


Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

The Who had finished, the misty Sunday sunrise appeared, and the Jefferson Airplane would close Saturdays 22-hour marathon of music.

Some Sunday risers while some still sleep in their blow-up tents. Striped shirt @ 1 o’clock!

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

More Sunday morning risers with an abandoned tee-pee framework. And can you see the bubble? It’s why I took the picture.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Waiting for Sunday’s music to begin. A Hare Krishna person in the middle.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Click for sure to enlarge and read the sign of this guy who walked around with his banner–“Love Your Animal Friends, Don’t Eat Them.” His name was Moonfire.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Sunday music began with Joe Cocker. One of those binocular shots.

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

My last shot. This woman had the largest afro I’d ever seen and it was bleached white besides. Nope. I later found out it’s a wig. Note the kid (headband) sitting on his Jeep seat. I call him the smartest person at Woodstock because he was the only one with a seat!

Woodstock Music Art Fair Pictures

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

Happy birthday

Clip of Buffy’s Starwalker live from her most recent album, Medicine Songs

Buffy Sainte-Marie was born on February 20, 1941.

If you are familiar with her, then you are certainly familiar with her most famous song, Universal Soldier which Vanguard Records  originally released on Sainte-Marie’s debut album It’s My Way! in 1964.

Neither the album nor the song were successful until Donovan covered Universal Soldier on a UK EP.  That success led to a US single release of his cover which had enough success that Sainte-Marie finally got a bit of the spotlight.

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

Early musician

In a 2015 Vogue interview, Sainte-Marie said that, “As a little kid when I was three, I discovered a piano and I found out it made noise and I was fascinated and taught myself how to do what I wanted to do on it. I could play fake Beethoven, and do other things with strange chords that other people didn’t use but that I liked. I banged on pots and pans, I’d play with rubber bands, I’d blow on grass, I played the mouth bow.”

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie


Sainte-Marie attended the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. In a 2009 Democracy Now interview, she told Amy Goodman that while there, “…I started playing songs for the girls in my dorm and my housemother Theresa de Kerpely, who was from Europe. She really encouraged me, and she encouraged me to listen to people like Edith Piaf, Carmen Amaya, the flamenco dancer-singer, people from other countries. So, from the start of playing for other people, I was absorbing and reflecting, I think, a very wide world culture. International students at the university were a big influence on me.”

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

Greenwich Village

Like so many other thoughtful singers of that time, Sainte-Marie went to Greenwich Village, but because of its New York location, “…she [would] go up to Akwesasne, the Mohawk reservation…. And it kind of became the paradigm of my life. I wasn’t intentionally trying to become a bridge for anything, but I did see that people in the cities, they wanted to know. “

Activist Beverly Buffy Sainte Marie

In 1965 Vanguard released Many a Mile, her second album. Her song “Until It’s Time for Your To Go.”  It became her most commercially successful single because so many have covered it including Elvis,  Cher, Bobby Darrin, Andy Williams, Glen Cam;bell, Jim Nabors, Nancy Sinatra, Petula Clark, Shirley Bassey, Willie Nelson, Barbara Streisand, and a “few” others including Neil Diamond. 

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

Not mainstream

Despite that commercial success, Buffy Sainte-Marie was no pop star. Her aim was and continues to be more than 50 years later: raise awareness of necessary social changes, particularly the area of Native Americans.

In 1966 her third album,  Little Wheel Spin and Spin,  featured her
“My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying.”

Now that your big eyes have finally opened,

Now that you’re wondering how must they feel,

Meaning them that you’ve chased across America’s movie screens.

Now that you’re wondering how can it be real

That the ones you’ve called colorful, noble and proud

In your school propaganda

They starve in their splendor?

You’ve asked for my comment I simply will render:

My country ’tis of thy people you’re dying.


According to the director Leo Penn, before she agreed to be a part of an episode of the popular TV show The Virginian she insisted “the studio cast Native actors for all the Indian parts (‘No Indians, no Buffy’). She also advocated that the writers bring complexity to her own role. She told them, ‘[I’m] not interested in playing Pocahontas.'”

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

Nihewan Foundation

In 1969 She founded the Nihewan Foundation which “is a small private non-profit foundation dedicated improving the education of and about Native American people and cultures. 

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

Sesame Street

In 1976 she became a part of Sesame Street and in a TV first was shown explaining breastfeeding to Big Bird while nursing her son Cody.

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie


She left Sesame Street in 1981 and in 1982 co-wrote  “Up Where We Belong,” the theme song to the film An Officer and a Gentleman, with Will Jennings. The song won an Best Song Oscar. 

Sainte-Marie donated the Oscar to the Smithsonian as it was the first time that a Native American had won one.

Activist Buffy Sainte Marie

20th into the 21st Century

Buffy Sainte-Marie has never stood still and has always expanded her artistic panorama far beyond that of music. A 2016 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation article listed 75 Things You Need To Know…about her.

And her own site lists the dozens of awards and honorary degrees others have given to her recognizing her lifetime of peace, love, and activism.

On November 10, 2017 she released her latest album, Medicine Songs. She described the album as, “…a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance — some brand new and some classics — and I want to put them to work. These are songs I’ve been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life.”


In October 2023, the an investigation by CBC News called into question Sainte-Marie’s claims that she has Indigenous ancestry. Sainte-Marie refutes the allegations.

The investigation alleged that Sainte-Marie was not born on the Piapot First Nation in Saskatchewan, Canada, and adopted by a white family as she has claimed for most of her career. Rather, the CBC suggests that she was born to White parents in the small town of Stoneham, Massachusetts.

The report drew on interviews with Sainte-Marie’s family members, genealogical records and archival research. At the heart of the investigation is a birth certificate from a Stoneham hospital that indicates Sainte-Marie was born Beverly Jean Santamaria to Alfred and Winifred Santamaria, who Sainte-Marie has claimed were her adoptive parents.

Complicating matters was that Sainte-Marie said she was adopted as an adult by a couple from the Piapot First Nation. Members of Sainte-Marie’s Piapot family have since stood by her, telling CBC that “Buffy is our family. We chose her and she chose us.”

Every understanding of our spiritual practices, the history our grandparents shared with us and the traditions of the Cree refute your suggestion that our Auntie Buffy is not Indigenous or a member of our community,” some Piapot family members wrote in an email to CBC. [most of this section’s information comes from a CNN article]


Activist Buffy Sainte Marie