Skip to main content

Humble beginnings remain with GRAMMY winner

NEW YORK - At the 45th annual GRAMMY's, Mary Youngblood, sat in the audience, moved to tears listening to some of her favorite artists including James Taylor and YoYo Ma, perform live. To many, Mary Youngblood is a favorite herself. During the pre-telecast of the Feb. 23 GRAMMY Awards, Youngblood's "Beneath the Raven Moon" was named best Native American album. Other nominees included, "Round Dance the Night Away" by Randy Wood, "Faith in the House" by Vince Redhouse, "Sacred Season" by Redheart, and "Spirits in the Wind" by Burning Sky.

"I am deeply honored to have received this most coveted and magnificent award. I think it is something most professional musicians would admit is the cr?me' de la cr?me' and something we certainly desire and strive for." Youngblood commented in a Feb. 26 interview with ICT.

Yet all the glitz and glam of the spotlight has not marred Youngblood who still recalls her own humble beginnings, "I am reminded of those not so glamorous beginnings ... those days on welfare, raising kids alone. My friends tease me that I've gone from Government cheese to Grammys"

Youngblood, of Aleut and Seminole ancestry, is one of the first Native women to record on the sacred Native flute, a role that has traditionally been limited to men. (see "Female Flutist gets GRAMMY nomination" ICT Vol. 22, Iss. 34) "Beneath the Raven Moon" is a collection of songs ranging from blues to classical, featuring the "beautiful heartfelt flute melodies for which she is known and loved." Additionally for the first time ever, the album showcases Youngblood's voice accompanying her many flutes.

When questioned about it being "traditional" for women to play the flute, Youngblood responded "There are so many people - men, women and children, who have discovered this beautiful instrument, and are gracing our ears, spirits, and hearts with its haunting and mysterious melodies. We're are certainly not the first indigenous peoples whose traditions have somewhat changed, metamorphosized and altered through the passing of time. And most of us acknowledge that within First Nations people, there are over 500 tribes, 500 different ways of viewing our cultures, and tradition, 500 varied and magnificent, peoples, languages and beliefs."

Youngblood has repeatedly stated she feels she is "simply a vessel between the Creator and this sacred instrument". She reiterates this message in saying, "I just hope and pray that I always use this gift the Creator has given me, in a good and honorable way."

And for her unassuming beginnings, Youngblood is sure to always remember where she came from and humorously adds, "Does anyone know where I can get some more of that [government] cheese?"