Husband remembers life of legendary Native American singer / songwriter


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Singer, songwriter and guitarist Joanne Shenandoah is shown performing on stage. (Photo by John Atashian / Getty Images)

A legendary singer / songwriter known for changing the landscape of native music has died in Scottsdale.

Joanne Shenandoah, known as the musical matriarch of Native Americans, won a Grammy in 2005, as well as more than a dozen Native American music awards. Now her husband is talking about the legacy she leaves behind.

Shenandoah grew up on the Oneida Reservation in New York City. Music would become the passion of his life, and Shenandoah offered his voice to the nation, singing both in English and in his native language.

“When Joanne first started native music, native music was in a very obscure category when it came to public perception of what it meant,” Shenandoah husband Doug George said.

George married Shenandoah in 1991. He witnessed her storied career as she won a Grammy and a record 14 Native American Music Awards.

“Joanne was gifted with a perfect pitch,” said George. “She sang more like Julie Andrews than anyone else. She had a believable range in her voice.”

Over the past year, Shenandoah’s health has changed. Her liver did not work, and in mid-October, her husband took her to the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale. Later, Shenandoah suffered from bleeding from the liver.

“They tried a massive infusion of blood, but they couldn’t stop the internal bleeding, and she went into cardiac arrest, then 14 hours later after she died,” said George.

Shenandoah died at the age of 64, just five weeks after arriving at the Mayo Clinic.

For George, he is grappling with the loss of his soul mate. He is, however, determined to preserve his heritage.

“How could you sum up a person like that?” »Said Georges. “I reached out and looked, and we say all of these things that we’ve done, Joanne, the places we’ve been and talked to her in real time.”

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