Buddy Red Bow is a Native American musical legend whose memory often evokes emotional responses from fans of this genre. He was not the first to take a solidly Anglo form of musical expression -- the folk protest song and country & western music -- and use it to express the concerns of the Indian nations. Surely he had learned from previous masters such as Peter La Farge, Floyd Westerman, and Buffy Saint-Marie, yet Red Bow was somehow a voice of a new generation, a reality confirmed by actions as well as songs. He is remembered not only as a musician, but as a Lakota activist in on the Red Power movement early on, one of the first to become involved in the Ghost Dance movement, and so on. His songs seem to have taken root in the hearts of his fans in a special way, although it goes hand in hand with a feeling that in the end he somehow did not live up to his potential.
He recorded three albums, beginning in 1984 with a self-titled debut that had a such a strong country flavor that forever after he was most often referred to as a country artist. This may not have been such a problem as country & western has always been one of the most popular Anglo musics among aboriginal people, in Australia as well as the United States. (Down under, Hank Williams is the most-selected artists on aboriginal jukeboxes.) Red Bow's second recorded work, Journey to the Spirit World, remains a favorite of many listeners. It features songs and stories that he remembered learning from his elders and incorporates singing in both English and the Lakota language. His final work was the beautiful, eloquent Black Hills Dreamer, which featured two of his most famous songs, "Run, Indian, Run" and "Indian Love Song." A posthumous collection of favorites from each of these records, Indian Reservation has also been released. Several of his songs were also featured on the soundtrack to Hard Rider, which was not the opposite of Easy Rider, but a documentary on rodeo riders in Alberta and Saskatchewan. He was among the first group of artists to be inducted in the NAMA (Native American Music Awards) Hall of Fame, alongside Jimi Hendrix, who apparently had Cherokee as well as purple haze in his blood.
He has had a few small film parts, such as a walk-on in Thunderheart, but will mostly be remembered in the world of cinema for Pow Wow Highway, in which there is a character named Buddy Red Bow that is partially, if not totally, based on the famous singer. At first considered one of the best films about Native Americans, the film seems to have been the victim of a late critical backlash, in which one writer claimed the depiction of Red Bow made him "cringe."