Singer Michael McDonald is 70

Patti, Aretha, Christopher Cross

Michael McDonaldAs I’ve mentioned, as a fan of Steely Dan, I was happy to see the Doobie Brothers were selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. That means contributing Dan vocalist Michael McDonald got in. When Dan pared down to a duo plus session musicians, I thought McDonald’s singing was integral to the sound.

That said, I was a big fan of the Doobies before McDonald joined the band. Of course, his addition was out of necessity, as founding member Tom Johnston was very ill. And his presence changed the alchemy of the band.

The Warner Brothers Loss Leader Leader called Cookbook (1977) was “Focusing on Warner’s black acts.” The only predominantly white group represented on the 2-LP set was the Doobie Brothers doing Taking It To The Streets, which went to #13 pop and #57 RB in 1976.

On the next few albums, McDonald dominated the sound, leading to some band acrimony, which Wikipedia covers well. One of the truly remarkable things about McDonald is the sheer number of albums he has appeared on, as a vocalist, keyboard player, and/or songwriter for other artists.

Occasionally, it was felt, he/the Doobies was competing with other songs he contributed to, which in time diminished the McDonald commercial appeal. But he and the group have gotten together occasionally.

Some songs

As a solo artist, he put out several albums, including Motown and Motown Two, well-regarded cover albums of… I’m guessing you can figure that out.

Doctor Wu – Steely Dan, 1975
Red Streamliner – Little Feat, 1977
Peg – Steely Dan, #11 pop in 1978
What A Fool Believes – Doobie Brothers, #1 pop, #72 RB in 1979
Minute By Minute -Doobie Brothers, 14 pop, #79 RB in 1979

Ride Like The Wind  – Christopher Cross, #2 pop for four weeks in 1980
This Is It – Kenny Loggins, #11 pop, #19 RB in 1980
Yah Mo B There – James Ingram ft MM, #19 pop, #5 RB in 1984 (Ingram, BTW, was born Feb 16, 1952, and died Jan 29, 2019)
On My Own – Patti LaBelle ft. MM, #1 for three weeks pop, #1 for four weeks RB in 1986
Sweet Freedom – Michael McDonald, #7 pop, #17 RB in 1986

Ever Changing Times – Aretha Franklin ft. MM, #19 RB in 1992
LIVE: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough/Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing – Michael McDonald with Ashford and Simpson. McDonald’s studio version of Mountain went #111 pop in 2004

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Singer Michael McDonald is 70”

  1. Mike McDonald is an excellent vocalist. I heard he’s lived in Nashville for the last 20-25 years, and has a voice like a really high end bourbon (from neighboring KY). I had not realized that he was on Doctor Wu, although that is not one of the Steely Dan albums I’ve listened to, although Aja is, and I imagine he’s doing backup vocals on Peg. I also hadn’t realized that “What A Fool Believes” went to #1 whereas “Minute by Minute” reached #14 – oh well, that’s kind of like the reason Billy Joel is more popular than Bill Evans!

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