The Canadian-American-Indigenous singer, songwriter, educator, visual artist and social activist Buffy Sainte-Marie released the album Coincidence and Likely Stories in 1992. I can always remember this woman having a strong presence in Canadian and American creative media. She has also been a dedicated activist and influential voice for the Indigenous peoples of North America.

I don’t remember when I bought the CD, but it has been a favourite for many years. It was her first recording in over a decade-and-a-half, and I am sure I was drawn to it by the admiration I’ve always had for Sainte-Marie as an Indigenous woman who continues to be a champion for the First People of our continent. Its songs contain so many poignant emotions, messages and calls to action; it’s a compelling collection of music. 

The song “Goodnight” is the closing track on the album; it also appears on Sainte-Marie’s 1996 collection of hits, Up Where We Belong (named after her Oscar-winning theme from the film, An Officer and a Gentleman). It’s a deeply beautiful song, and her voice and sparse instrumentation make it remarkable and unforgettable.

“Sleepless nights don’t bother me at all
If dawn comes I don’t worry
Something deep inside keeps me awake
I wish that you were here right beside me

I recall when I was very young
and could not go to sleep
My father sang me songs to make me tired
But memories don’t make it easier so

wherever you are sleeping
and I hope that if you dream
you dream of me
Oh goodnight
wherever you are sleeping
and I hope that if you dream
you dream of me

Now I lie awake and it’s no fun
tossing and turning
I’d call you if it weren’t so very late
but telephones don’t bring you close to me

I recall the times we stayed up late
Wide awake but still dreaming
There was nothing on this earth could make me tired
but memories don’t make it easier so

wherever you are sleeping
and I hope that if you dream
you dream of me.
wherever you are sleeping
and I hope that if you dream
you dream of me…”

(“Goodnight,” by Cliff Eberhardt)

The synthesizer treatment that comes in after the first instance of the chorus adds to the ethereal tone of the song; the whole piece is so wonderful it makes me stop in my tracks whenever I hear it.

We love the song so much, we added it to our wedding CD (please see my posts on The Cranberries’ “When You’re Gone” and Annie Lennox’s “Stay by Me” for two others on that disc).  The notes from our wedding compilation tell that Sweety listened to the song when I was in Calgary for three weeks of in-class training to become a rail traffic controller in 1998, which was also the year we became a couple: “It’s a haunting and beautifully spiritual song by an amazing artist and can have other meanings, as many songs can. But for us it’s always been about the wrenching emptiness we feel when we’re away from each other. And the sense that dreams bring us together in those times.”

About the song, composed by Cliff Eberhadt, Sainte-Marie says on her website, “From 1976 for the next sixteen years, I quit recording to concentrate on being a mommy and an artist. I did very few concerts, mostly on Reserves or big splendid things in Europe for UNICEF, and got into home recording. I heard Cliff Eberhart’s beautiful ‘Goodnight’ sung by The Modern Folk Quartet. In 1991, with my son grown up, I was invited by Ensign Records to re-enter professional recording, and with Chris Birkett as my co-producer, made Coincidence and Likely Stories, mostly at home with my Macintosh computer which had been my constant companion since 1984. I sang and played ‘Goodnight’ right into the Mac. It’s my favourite song.”

Photo of a CD and its cover.
Cover and disc from our wedding CD. The cover art was created by the amazing artist and business owner, Amanda Buhse, and facilitated by our dear friend and local/international entrepreneur, Laura Hawkins; the words are from a Sarah Brightman song. I set the CD design using a Hewlett-Packard printer program.

In 2017, Sainte-Marie released newer versions of many of her songs on the album Medicine Songs. As I wrote this, the song “Starwalker” was playing, with its powerful chants and the call to “aim straight, stand tall.” It sent shivers up my spine and made the hair on my arms stand up straight.

Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy. 

Here’s the official audio from the Buffy Sainte-Marie (topic) YouTube channel:

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