God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot

Album: Illuminations (1969)
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Songfacts®:

  • Although much of Buffy Sainte-Marie's fan base balked at the time at the experimentation of her synth-enhanced sixth album, Illuminations, it is today recognized as one of the strongest records of her career. Buffy herself admitted: "Most of the songs are pretty weird," before adding, "I've always loved it."
  • The lyrics are an interpretation of a poem that appears in Leonard Cohen's 1966 novel, Beautiful Losers. "I'd read Leonard's book and there it was, " she recalled. "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot. I just loved it."
  • Buffy said of her one-take performance of the song: "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."
  • Illuminations was the first quadraphonic vocal album ever recorded.
  • Buffy recalled how the song came together in the studio: "I had a recording session scheduled and Leonard was in town. I propped two pages of his book up on a music stand and I just sang it out, ad-libbing the melody and guitar music together as I went along. I've always wanted to re-record it, as I love the way the power of the words obviously commands the music and drives it beyond any consideration of time signature."
  • In 2016, Buffy told Billboard this was the quickest composition she's ever done.

Comments: 3

  • Kaylaine from IndianaI just found a recording of this song by Chris Thile on his new Laysongs album. Now I'm going to look for Buffy's version and listen to it as well.
  • André from Ottawa Ontario CanadaDearest Buffy
    I have always loved you and will always continue...
    Thank you for being you and for everything that you give us...
  • Steve W from San DiegoThank you so much for the insight into how this great song evolved.
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