Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Johnny Yen's One Hit Wonders: "Midnight At The Oasis," by Maria Muldaur

Maria Muldaur (born Maria Grazia Rosa Domenica D'Amato) was born and raised in Greenwich Village and became part of the same fertile and diverse New York folkie scene that launched Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Peter Paul and Mary, Buffy Ste. Marie, Jose Feliciano, Richie Havens, John Sebastian and many other folkies. She married fellow musician Geoff Muldaur, whom she met while performing in the 1960's with Jim Kweskin & His Jug Band, which also included John Sebastian, David Grisman and Stefan Grossman.

In 1972, Maria and Geoff Muldaur parted ways personally and professionally, and Maria, keeping her married name, embarked on a solo career, moving with her young daughter to the west coast to do so. She hit a home run at her first at-bat, with a single from her first, self-titled album. "Midnight At the Oasis" went to #6 on the Billboard charts in 1974.

Here's a performance on the popular "Midnight Special" show from around the time it was a hit.

In this video, Ms. Muldaur tells her story and the story of how the song came to be. It was a last-minute addition to her first solo album, written by her guitarist, David Nichtern. The song's lyrics tell of a desert love affair, presumably in the Middle East. It contains one of the silliest lyrics ever:

"Come on, Cactus is our friend
He'll point out the way
Come on, 'til the evenin' ends
'Til the evenin' ends"

On top of that, as many have pointed out, cacti are native to North and South America, not the Middle East.

In her interview, Ms. Muldaur recounts the many, many people who have told her that they conceived their children, lost their virginity to, or got married to the song.

Ms. Muldaur has continued to record and perform, sometimes with the Grateful Dead and their spin-offs. "Midnight At The Oasis" remains her only charting hit. In 2005, she won both a W.C. Handy Award and a Grammy in the Traditional Blues Category for her album "Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul."

"Midnight At The Oasis" was immortalized in pop culture one more time in Sophia Coppola's "Lost In Translation," in the scene where the lounge singer who has spent the night with Bill Murray sings it as she walks around his hotel room.


Fran said...

I have to get Dcap over here - one he gets started on this song, he can't stop. It is not pretty, but it can be amusing.

Me - I actually like it! But don't tell!

Erik Donald France said...

Love love love this song and got to see her at the Detroit Jazz Festival a couple years ago doing -- Woody Allen-like old style jazz. Strange, but not as strange and oddly cool as this song. Cheers!

Paul D. Brazill said...

Good call.
Top song.

Distributorcap said...


JY - i have to send you the video i did to this song (send me your email - mine is nyz5678@gmail.com)

there is a long long story behind this song (and why i so make fun of it)


SkylersDad said...

Amazing the power of one hit song, entire careers are made by them!

Mnmom said...

I freaking LOVE that song!

dmarks said...

It's probably the biggest Arabian theme hit until "Rock the Casbah" came out.

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