Buffy Sainte-Marie – God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot (5 days with Buffy, day four)

• “God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot” set to a picture of the housing album cover. Thanks to Buffy Sainte-Marie – Topic.

7.9 “Great Psychedelia from Canada”

From her sixth album “Illuminations”, released in 1969 (read my full album review @ The Jukebox Rebel).

As a body of work, “Illuminations” was a strong bounce-back from last years rather awkward “I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again”, seeing Buffy completely reinvent herself once again, this time as a somewhat gothic psychedelic folkie, complete with church organs, spacey keyboards, echoey vocals, and general wah-wah, often out of step with anything else going on at the time, and, almost predictably, failing to find commercial favour.

Striking opener “God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot” is a faithful reading of a poem written by her fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen, lifted from his 1966 novel, “Beautiful Losers”. Buffy creates brand new music for the prose, recorded in one inspirational take:

“I’d read Leonard’s book and there it was, God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot, I just loved it. I knew what the poem was about, and I knew how the music would feel in my head, but like, flamenco, I didn’t know where I was going from line to line. If it sounds stream of consciousness that’s because it is.”

The mind itself is magic, be your own God, that’s what I’d say. Mind you, they’ll never elect me for President.

God is alive; Magic is afoot
God is alive; Magic is afoot
God is afoot; Magic is alive
Alive is afoot
Magic never died

God never sickened
Many poor men lied
Many sick men lied
Magic never weakened
Magic never hid
Magic always ruled
God is afoot
God never died

God was ruler
Though his funeral lengthened
Though his mourners thickened
Magic never fled
Though his shrouds were hoisted
The naked God did live
Though his words were twisted
The naked Magic thrived
Though his death was published
Round and round the world
The heart did not believe

Many hurt men wondered
Many struck men bled
Magic never faltered
Magic always led
Many stones were rolled
But God would not lie down
Many wild men lied
Many fat men listened
Though they offered stones
Magic still was fed
Though they locked their coffers
God was always served

Magic is afoot; God rules
Alive is afoot; Alive is in command
Many weak men hungered
Many strong men thrived
Though they boasted solitude
God was at their side
Nor the dreamer in his cell
Nor the captain on the hill
Magic is alive
Though his death was pardoned
Round and round the world
The heart would not believe

Though laws were carved in marble
They could not shelter men
Though altars built in parliaments
They could not order men
Police arrested Magic
And Magic went with them
For Magic loves the hungry

But Magic would not tarry
It moves from arm to arm
It would not stay with them
Magic is afoot
It cannot come to harm
It rests in an empty palm
It spawns in an empty mind
But Magic is no instrument
Magic is the end

Many men drove Magic
But Magic stayed behind
Many strong men lied
They only passed through Magic
And out the other side
Many weak men lied
They came to God in secret
And though they left him nourished
They would not tell who healed
Though mountains danced before them
They said that God was dead
Though his shrouds were hoisted
The naked God did live

This I mean to whisper to my mind
This I mean to laugh within my mind
This I mean my mind to serve ’til
Service is but Magic
Moving through the world
And mind itself is Magic
Coursing through the flesh
And flesh itself is Magic
Dancing on a clock
And time itself the magic length of God


Buffy Sainte-Marie is touring constantly, and coming off her critically acclaimed, award-winning 2015 album Power in the Blood, nobody could ever accuse the Academy Award-winning songwriter of taking it easy. Since her groundbreaking debut, 1964’s It’s My Way!, the Cree singer-songwriter has been a trailblazer and a tireless advocate, an innovative artist, and a disruptor of the status quo.

Sainte-Marie has spent her whole life creating, and her artistry, humanitarian efforts, and Indigenous leadership have made her a unique force in the music industry. In 1969, she made one of the world’s first electronic vocal albums; in 1982 she became the only Indigenous person to win an Oscar; she spent five years on Sesame Street where she became the first woman to breastfeed on national television. She’s been blacklisted and silenced. She’s written pop standards sung and recorded by the likes of Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Donovan, Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes. She penned “Universal Soldier,” the definitive anti-war anthem of the 20th century. She is an icon who keeps one foot firmly planted on both sides of the North American border, in the unsurrendered territories that comprise Canada and the USA.

In 2019’s climate of damaging #fakenews and toxic hubris, Buffy Sainte-Marie’s incisive honesty, clarity, and intelligent compassion stand out in sharp relief.