Maria Muldaur’s voice carries the power of peace, the seduction of song, and the indisputable ability to convey any point she wants to make. So it’s no wonder that, as she excitedly informed me over the phone, Barack Obama personally wrote her a handwritten letter conveying that the title track of her new Yes We Can! album (a song she performs with Bonnie Raitt) “‘perfectly fits the spirit of the campaign’ and that he would have it placed in rotation and played at rallies and speeches.”
As I spoke with Muldaur, her tone and rhythm highlighted the humor, chutzpah, and energy that have made her music so powerful for decades. The focus of the material she covers has evolved in a similar fashion. Best known for her classic 1973 pop hit “Midnight at the Oasis,” Muldaur’s current album, as she enthusiastically explained, can best be described as “protest music you can dance to.” Drawing inspiration from Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World, Muldaur put together the Women’s Voices for Peace Choir for this album. This group includes a unique collection of women singers, writers, activists, and even religious figures. Muldaur gives credit to Bolen’s book for stimulating the idea because “basically the message of this book is that, even in the face of the most daunting challenges and problems, people can get together in small circles with the positive intention of creating positive change even on a real grassroots level, and this affects real change.”
In addition to the Women’s Voice for Peace Choir, Yes We Can! also features special guest musicians and activists including Amma, Joan Baez, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Jane Fonda, Anne Lamott, Odetta, Holly Near, Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, and Marianne Williamson.
This progressive communal attitude also comes through in the song selections, which include three from Bob Dylan. In the case of the Dylan classic “Masters of War,” Muldaur said she absolutely “loves Bob and has known him for 45 years.” When she wrote his publishing house asking for permission to reinterpret some of the song’s final lyrics, she was thrilled to receive the go ahead to rewrite the dramatic close to the song with a more positive message appropriately fitting the setting of her album and our era.
Although the album was completed relatively quickly, its impact will be long-lasting. Go to YouTube today and see the widely viewed “Yes We Can: Tribute to Obama” video (not to be confused with the will.i.am video of the same title). Talking about the whole experience of overseeing this project, Muldaur heartily rejoiced, asking, “Who would have though in my old age that I’d be directing my own videos?”
She then added, earnestly, “My only intention is that in some way this music serves as a soundtrack to all the change we want.” She makes clear that this movement is bigger than any specific politician. For Muldaur, human rights and social change extend far beyond the mere process of electoral politics. Looking forward to her November 16 Santa Barbara show at SOhO, Muldaur promised a combination of great tracks from Yes We Can! and old favorites “that will satisfy that desire.” She added that “everyone who comes will have a great time and be uplifted.”
In a world needing uplift, Maria Muldaur’s funky sounds of peace and love seductively promise that by joining together, we can heal the world. They open us to the question of whether, working together, we can create a peaceful, funky planet, and then they offer a bold answer-Yes We Can!
Maria Muldaur will appear at SOhO on Sunday, November 16. For tickets and information call 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.