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Midnight at the Oasis by Maria Muldaur: Lyrics Meaning and Interpretation

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Maria Muldaur was an extremely significant figure during the revival of American folk music movement back in the 60s. Her guitar work spanned multiple genres, and she was partly inspired by the hippie and beatnik culture of the time; the very same culture that gave rise to rock and roll legends such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Doors, etc. Muldaur produces songs in the following genres – early jazz, blues, R&B, country, and gospel. Her most famous song perhaps is ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ which was recorded in 1973. She married another musician, namely Geoff Muldaur. Geoff was a fellow band member of Maria when she used to perform as part of the Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band. Bob Dylan was also associated with this band at that point in time. After she adopted Christianity, Maria Muldaur began producing Christian music.

The song ‘Midnight at the Oasis’, however, was before her religious turn. This song was included in her first solo album that was self-titled. This is perhaps her best-known song as it was nominated for Grammy awards in two categories – Song of the Year and Record of the Year. It even reached the number 6 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100.

What does the Title mean?

The song ‘Midnight at the Oasis’ is a tune about wooing a native of Middle-East, probably Saudi Arabia. The song doesn’t give out specific details. Instead, it paints a picturesque narrative about a girl trying to win over the heart of a young man in the desert. The title itself plays an important role in painting the picture of the setting as the song is about spending a night in the desert, near an oasis. It paints a very romantic picture. Accompanied with the beautiful voice of Maria Muldaur, the descriptive verses in the song come to life and engulf the listener completely.

Verse 1 – What does it mean?

“Midnight at the oasis

Send your camel to bed

Shadows painting our faces

Traces of romance in our heads

Heaven’s holding a half moon

Shining just for us

Let’s slip off to

A sand dune, real soon

And kick up a little dust”

The first verse begins with painting the background setting for the listener. Maria makes it clear with the words she chooses that the song is closely related to the desert. The mention of the oasis, a place in desert where water is found, is a testament to that fact. Maria asks her lover to send his camel to bed. That line implies that they’ve been travelling in the desert with each other. Usually, camels are used as a method of transportation in deserts as they can survive for extended periods of time without water and cover longer distances at one go. As the song progresses, it becomes clear that the singer is in a romantic mood. The depth of her perception is astounding as it seems that time has stood still for her. She’s gazing at the shadows that are painting her lover’s face. The romance seems to be building up as they’re both caught in the moment. Evenings in deserts are especially aesthetic as the temperature begins to drop and the sunset creates a wholly romantic vibe. The half-moon shining on the sand seems to make the narrator lust for her lover. She suggests that they find a sand dune and get intimate with each other. By “kicking up a little dust”, she means engaging in sex.

What does the Chorus mean?

“Come on, cactus is our friend

He’ll point out the way

Come on, ‘til the evening ends

‘Til the evening ends”

The whole song uses the flora and fauna of desert to create an otherworldly feeling for the listener. The cactus being their friend will serve as a marking so that they don’t lose their way. She wants some alone time with her lover and wants to spend the evening with him.

Verse 2 – What does it mean?

“You don’t have to answer

There’s no need to speak

I’ll be your belly dancer, prancer

And you can be my sheik”

The narrator continues her monologue. She says that her lover doesn’t have to answer, and it seems that he’s in her trance. She is in the process of seducing him. She’s ready to be his belly dancer and he can be her Sheik. In middle-eastern countries, belly dancers are quite common in expensive parties. Usually, only Sheiks, who are more often than not quite rich, are able to afford them. Moreover, belly dancers are supposed to be very desirable when it comes to sexual entertainment. Again, the analogy of belly dancer and Sheiks is used to emphasize on the song’s overall middle-eastern theme.

 

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Verse 3 – What does it mean?

“I know your daddy’s a sultan

A nomad known to all

With fifty girls to attend him

They all send him

Jump at his beck and call

But you won’t need no harem, honey

When I’m by your side

And you won’t need no camel, no no

When I take you for a ride”

 

In the third verse, the narrator reveals a little about the lover whom she is seducing. Supposedly, his father’s a Sultan. A Sultan is akin to a clan leader or king. In other words, he is a man of power. Nomads are those who don’t stay at one place but keep moving from one to another. A Sultan of the nomads would probably be a clan leader. The rest of the verse describes the amount of power and wealth that Sultan holds. He’s got fifty girls that attend to him and are at his whim. The narrator, however, points out that the Sultan’s son, the person whom she is seducing, wouldn’t need any more girls if he’s got her. She implies that she is so well-versed at the art of satisfying her man that he won’t even look at another girl. The last two lines of this verse again take on a sexual meaning as the narrator uses the word ‘ride’.

Verse 4 – What does it mean?

“Midnight at the oasis

Send your camel to bed

Got shadows painting our faces

And traces of romance in our heads”

 

The final verse of the song repeats the first half of the first verse. The music, after a rock solo, begins to fade and the soothing voice of Maria takes over the listener. She ends the song with the listener already in a romantic trance induced by her voice.

Conclusion

Midnight at the Oasis is a romantic song and it’s not the lyrics that set it apart but the voice of Maria Muldaur. It’s the perfect song to play on a romantic date or when you’re in the bedroom with your significant other. In 1973, it took everyone by the storm as it was quite unorthodox for a woman to be involved in rock and roll, and blues. All in all, it’s a song that one has to listen to truly know how impactful it is.

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