All time Greatest First Nations Love Song

St Valentines Day is just around the corner and in honor of St Valentino I am going to hand out the Jack Minor awards for great love songs, beginning with the award for..( drum roll please )  the All Time Greatest First Nations love song, Until It’s Time For you to Go by Buffy Sainte-Marie.  Buffy is one my favorite Canadian singer song writers.  Below is some info I cut and pasted from Wikkipedia, regarding  Buffy.

Buffy Sainte-Marie was born in 1941[2][3] on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation Reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada.[4] She was later adopted, growing up in Massachusetts, with parents Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie.[5] She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, earning degrees in teaching and Oriental philosophy[6] and graduating in the top ten of her class.[7] She went on to earn a Ph.D in Fine Art from the University of Massachusetts.[8]

In 1964 on a return trip to the Piapot Cree reserve in Canada for a Powwow she was welcomed and (in a Cree Nation context) adopted by the youngest son of Chief Piapot, Emile Piapot and his wife, who added to Sainte-Marie’s cultural value of, and place in, native culture.[9]  

I have pastored  among First Nations folk and I have a great admiration for them and I really enjoy their ” national characteristics.”( Oh please you say, don’t start with that stereotype @#$$%.)  I will start with that, thank you.  Every nation has its own typical characteristics, just google Irish National Characteristics for instance.  It will definitely say that the Irish are a race of poets and writers,  and that they make sarcasm into an art form.  This is how we. and I am Irish, are, most of us.  There are exceptions of course but that is because of the Viking invasions.  Writing a blog is a very Irish thing to do. And the First Nations have a few characteristics that are, in my experience, universal.  Three characteristics stand out to me. First of all they are a very sweet people.  Sweet is a strange adjective and I can’t hardly define what I mean, but it is the right word. Secondly they are a very gentle, sensitive  people with a very specific, gentle kind of humor, and thirdly they are a very generous  people.   There are exceptions  of course but that is because they are intermarried with white people.  Think of these three characteristics as you listen to Until its Time for You to Go.

The lyrics concern an ordinary man and woman who love each other, but cannot stay together because they come from different worlds. The singer asks her (or his) lover: “Don’t ask why/Don’t ask how/Don’t ask forever/Love me now.” According to Sainte-Marie, the song “popped into my head while I was falling in love with someone I knew couldn’t stay with me.”[2] Besides The Four Pennies, Diamond and Presley, it has been covered by Jim Croce, Glen Campbell, Cher, Nancy Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Robert Goulet, Shirley Bassey, Barbra Streisand, Bette Davis, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Roberta Flack, New Birth, Paul Anka, Eddy Arnold, Michael Nesmith of The Monkees, Bobby Darin, Helen Reddy, Andy Williams, Claudine Longet, Joe Longthorne, Françoise Hardy, Pierre Lalonde -in french- and Emilie-Claire Barlow.

In the history of 20 century music it is a very big song indeed.

As Buffy relates, the song came out an experience of falling in love. All great art comes out of experience. It cannot be contrived or just imagined out of nothing to  have such a ring of truth to it and for it to resonate as it does in all of our hearts.

Buffy doesn’t reveal the story,  and why should she. But I imagine a the story something like this. Buffy is on the reserve she grew up on. She is a very proud and intelligent first nations girl, who has resolved never to date a white boy. But then a young school teacher or mountie is posted to her reserve and .. well, the heart has reasons the mind knows nothing of.. she falls in love. She knows it can’t last  but he doesn’t.  He  is being transferred elsewhere and he asks Buffy to come with him.  It is late late May  or early June and they go for a walk in the coulee.  He picks her a spray of bright yellow buffalo beans and the purple crocus .  The only flowers the prairie knows in early spring. They find a place in the sun, out of the wind and she pulls a piece of paper out of her pocket and reads to him this poem to try to explain why she can’t come with him.  And remember ,  the three characteristic I wrote about, sweetness, gentleness and generosity.

You’re not a dream, you’re not an angel
You’re a man
I’m not a queen, I’m a woman
Take my hand

We’ll make a space in the lives
That we’d planned
And here we’ll stay
Until it’s time for you to go

Yes we’re different worlds apart
We’re not the same
We laughed and played
At the start like in a game

You could’ve stayed outside my heart
But in you came
And here you’ll stay
Until it’s time for you to go

Don’t ask why
Don’t ask how
Don’t ask forever of me
Love me now

This love of mine had no beginning
It has no end
I was an oak, now I’m a willow
Now I can bend

And though I’ll never
In my life see you again
Still I’ll stay
Until it’s time for you to go

Don’t ask why
Don’t ask how
Don’t ask forever of me
Love me, love me now

You’re not a dream, you’re not an angel
You’re a man
I’m not a queen, I’m a woman
Take my hand

We’ll make a space in the lives
That we’d planned
And here we’ll stay
Until it’s time for you to go

There is such a sweetness, such a gentleness, such a generosity in this song  , that only a First Nations girl could have written it. Though Buffy did not grow up on the reserve, like many  First Nations children she was adopted out as a child, her soul, and spirit and nature were thoroughly still First Nations and these national characteristics shine through in everything she writes and does.  Until It Is Time For You To Go is the sweetest, gentlest, most generous song I know and I  can never hear it without tears coming to my eyes.  It stands tall and alone above all other love songs in my estimation and I believe it always will

Blessings

Jack

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