Moonlight Shadow: the hidden meaning of a painful song

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The last that ever she saw him
Carried away by a moonlight shadow

You probably sang it while driving, most probably with a smile on your face, like me.

Well, you were wrong. We were all wrong.

Moonlight Shadow is a single by Mike Oldfield, the British composer. Born in 1953, his life has taken him through the full musical spectrum, from hard rock to electronic. This single is from the album Crises, which was released in 1983.

The song is voiced by the Scottish singer, Maggie Reilly. But before she appeared on the song, Oldfield had asked Enya. It would have been interesting to see her in action on this song.

Maggie, however, is perfect in her interpretation of the two sides to this song, expressing clearly that Moonlight Shadow is anything but a cheerful melody to enjoy during a mid-summer bonfire.

The lyrics are about the frozen shock of a girl who witnesses the death of her own boyfriend; taken away in the moonlight, shot to death during a fight. And it’s on the ascending climax of the song that Maggie gets angry, finally realising that her love is dying. He was shot right there, under the moonlight shadow.

The trees that whisper in the evening
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
Sing a song of sorrow and grieving
Carried away by a moonlight shadow
All she saw was a silhouette of a gun
Far away on the other side
He was shot six times by a man on the run
And she couldn’t find how to push through

Only rock can conceal so much mystery and cruelty behind such quiet notes, a delicate voice, and tones that are inviting like summer smash hits, but yet that carry such a tough message: the helplessness of the violent and unexpected death of her beloved.

The bass and drums accompany a guitar that finds its own voice in a solo, like it wants to scream out what the voice cannot say, both mediums broken by the events.

Someone said that John Lennon’s death, which happened 3 years before, was the inspiration for the lyrics of this song. And it’s probably the only way the audience could accept a song like this, so full of pain and powerlessness.

I stay, I pray
See you in heaven far away
I stay, I pray
See you in heaven one day

We can almost see her; the girl, broken by pain and shock, defeated by a death that happened on a joyous night. Helpless.

The moonlight is the context for what is a paradoxical event. And rock is the sound that realises it.

Rating: 4.4/5. From 7 votes.
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