She has performed with Willie Nelson and Neil Young and for the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela.
âJoanne is to contemporary Native American music what Aretha Franklin, Etta James or Billie Holiday are to their respective genres,â Native American Music Award nominee and Mohawk tribe member Ed Koban told Native News Online. “A timeless and elegant voice that did not need any vocal tricks or gymnastics, was rather smooth, smooth and pure.”
Ms. Shenandoah recorded a track for Robbie Robertson’s 1998 album âContact From the Underworld of Redboyâ. “She puts you in a trance with her wonderful Iroquois chants,” Mr. Robertson said of her singing, “and envelops you in her voice like a warm blanket on a chilly winter night.”
With her music, as well as the content of her lyrics, she sought to counter centuries of abuse and marginalization of Native Americans; she also pleaded for her listeners to protect the earth, and she hoped to offer comfort to the soul.
In âProphecy Song,â she calls her listeners to awaken: âWe are now reminded to be aware of our place on this earth,â she intones, âand to fulfill our obligations to ourselves, our families, our nations, the natural world and to the Creator.
Joanne Lynn Shenandoah was born June 23, 1957 in Syracuse, NY Her mother, Maisie (Winder) Shenandoah, was an artist, and her father, Clifford Shenandoah, was a blacksmith who raised the family on the Oneida Reservation, just in the east of Syracuse. His ancestors included Chief Skenandoa (spelling varies), an ally of George Washington during the American Revolution.
Joanne may have been destined to be a singer from birth; her Oneida Wolf Clan name, Tekaliwakwha, means “she sings”. But as she grew into an adult, she planned to become a businesswoman. For a while she only sang informally, at weddings and funerals.