Tom Petty song Wildflowers lives on in Cree language

Cree singer Art Napoleon pays tribute to late rock star with unique cover

October 04, 2017

Art Napoleon released a full album of rock and roll covers in 2011. The entire album was sung in Cree. (Micayla Meyers)

Rock musician Tom Petty died suddenly this week, but his music will live on in at least one Indigenous language.

Art Napoleon, a Cree singer and songwriter, paid tribute to Petty by covering Wildflowers in the Cree language.  


"[It is a] good opportunity for people to learn a little bit about the language, but also I wanted to pay tribute to the kind of music that influenced me as a younger man. Petty definitely did."

Napoleon, from Saulteau First Nation, said he grew up listening to rock and country music.

"I think he wrote a wide variety of styles and hit on a lot of subject areas. I think he just moved a lot of people including myself," he said.

"He had a unique voice, I wouldn't exactly call his voice mainstream sound, but yet he found a mainstream audience. And Ii think it had a real rock and roll spirit to it - There was a folk sentimentality too."

In 2011, Napoleon released an album called Creeland Covers. The album featured country and rock songs - all done in Cree.

He had a big set list and wanted to include one that featured Petty.

"I had to pick one that was easier to translate because some of the English concepts are very hard to translate. Something that's funny in English doesn't come across that way in Cree and vice versa," said Napleon.

Working through the translations, Napoleon decided to cover Wildflowers.

"Wildflowers is a very moving song. It's nicely arranged and it's a beautiful love song. Kind of just brought goosebumps to me when I first heard it. I thought I would do my best to do it some justice."

You can catch Napoleon covering "Wildflowers" and other classics on Sun. Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m. at the new Duncan Showroom in Duncan, BC.

With files from Andrew Kurjata
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