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A project of Jazz Appreciation Month, KNKX and Jazz24 celebrate highly regarded jazz creators who continue to inspire.

Maria Muldaur started with pop hits but she's all about the blues

Maria Muldaur in a promotional photo for her 2011 album <i>Steady Love</i>. Muldaur began her music career in the early 1960s and released her first solo album in 1973.
Alen Mercer
Maria Muldaur
Maria Muldaur in a promotional photo for her 2011 album Steady Love. Muldaur began her music career in the early 1960s and released her first solo album in 1973.

Maria Muldaur’s biggest hit – “Midnight at the Oasis” – dropped in 1973 and got to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Soft rock combined with her rough, yet sweet, voice blends blues sensibility with heart-felt softness. Muldaur has made a career of singing music beautifully, but also in a warm and approachable manner.

Her cover of Peggy Lee’s “I’m a Woman,” which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, showcases that rootsy and bluesy sound – and that’s the sound she became known for.

But after these pop hits – it became trickier to pin down Muldaur to a single musical genre. She said in a 2014 KNKX studio session that what is "popular" in the world of music doesn’t matter to her:

“There’s so much -- such a rich wealth of music to choose from. As long as it’s good music various points of my life have just gotten passionate about it. I’ve done several gospel albums, as you say, I did a jug band album four years ago. It’s very gratifying, not paying any attention to what the big trends are out there on regular radio, just do what I love to do and people seem to still enjoy it.”

Muldaur is a road warrior who has toured for most of her impressive career, which spans half a century. She's performed at Carnegie Hall and New York City’s Central Park but also in small towns, bringing her brand of style and sass wherever she goes.

Muldaur has been nominated for five Grammy Awards, most recently in 2018 when Don't You Feel My Leg (The Naughty Bawdy Blues Of Blue Lu Barker) was up for Best Traditional Blues Album.

Muldaur's brand of blues is always warm with her expressive singing shining through. In the early '80s, Muldaur’s Christianity led her to write and record a series of gospel tunes.

Muldaur has also steadfastly devoted herself to Americana and folk music – and has championed southern roots blues. In that 2014 KNKX interview she talked about one of the ways she's done this work:

“We found out that a lot of the artists that to us were just these mythical figures, that were singing to us on scratchy old 78s on Smithsonian collections, that were just these figures out of a misty and distant past —were actually alive and well in the South and playing this music because it was their music...We started bringing bringing them up north to concerts.”

In 2019, the Americana Music Association honored Muldaur with its "Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer" award. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of "Midnight at the Oasis" and with an ever-evolving show schedule, Muldaur continues to blaze ahead.
Copyright 2024 KNKX Public Radio. To see more, visit KNKX Public Radio.

Paige Hansen