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Michael McDonald (singer)

Michael McDonald
Man with silver shoulder-length hair and goatee in white v-neck top.
Background information
Born (1952-02-12) February 12, 1952 (age 68)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S
Genres R&B, soul, blue-eyed soul, pop, soft rock
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboards, guitar
Years active 1970–present
Labels Warner Bros., Reprise, Ramp
Associated acts Steely Dan, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Loggins

Michael McDonald (born February 12, 1952) is an American singer and songwriter. McDonald is known for his soulful tenor and falsetto, despite being described as a baritone,[1] and the richness of his voice in the higher registers. His early career included singing vocals with Steely Dan. He joined The Doobie Brothers in 1976 and remained an integral member until 1982, a period which resulted in several hit songs for the band. He has won five Grammy Awards.

Early years

Born into an Irish American Catholic family[2] in St. Louis, Missouri, McDonald played in several local bands while attending McCluer High School in his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri.[citation needed] He was discovered while playing with a group called Blue and consequently moved to Los Angeles in 1970. He also recorded some promo songs in the early 1970s which are now available on an album collectively called That Was Then.[citation needed]

Steely Dan

Michael McDonald became one of the many in-studio adjunct members of the group Steely Dan, providing back-up vocals on tracks for 1975's Katy Lied. He would return on subsequent Steely Dan recordings including 1976's The Royal Scam and 1977's Aja. He also played keyboards on some Steely Dan tracks. McDonald continued to do background vocals for Steely Dan through their 1980 release, Gaucho. He was part of Steely Dan's touring band in the 1970s, playing keyboards and singing backup.

Doobie Brothers

File:Doobie Brothers 1976.JPG
McDonald with the Doobie Brothers, 1976

McDonald was recruited by the band The Doobie Brothers in April 1975 when lead singer Tom Johnston became ill during a national tour. His time with the band proved so successful that they decided to retain him as a full-time member.

As a member of the Doobie Brothers he recorded some of the band's best-known songs such as "Real Love", "Takin' It to the Streets", "Little Darling", "It Keeps You Runnin'", "Minute by Minute", and "What a Fool Believes" (which became a number one single in the U.S. and earned him a 1980 Grammy Award for Song of the Year along with co-writer Kenny Loggins). At the same time he appeared as a session singer and piano player for artists such as Christopher Cross, Stephen Bishop, Jack Jones, Bonnie Raitt, the rock band Toto and Kenny Loggins. McDonald co-wrote "You Belong to Me" with Carly Simon which appeared on the album Livin' on the Fault Line.

Solo career

"This Is It", written and sung with Kenny Loggins.

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After the Doobies' first farewell tour, McDonald released his first solo album, If That's What It Takes, in 1982 on Warner Brothers. The album featured the hits "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)," a duet with his sisters Kathy and Maureen, and "I Gotta Try," a song co-written with Kenny Loggins, who recorded it as well. That same year, Arista Records compiled some of his earlier songs in the 1982 release That Was Then: The Early Years which has never been issued on CD.[citation needed]

He continued to collaborate with other artists during this period. McDonald co-wrote Van Halen's Top 20 hit "I'll Wait", from their landmark 1984 album. "Yah Mo B There", a duet with James Ingram, won the 1985 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.[3] He followed that up with "On My Own", a duet with Patti LaBelle, which reached #1 on the U.S. charts in 1986. Later that year, he would perform as background vocalist on Toto's album Fahrenheit, appearing on the hit single "I'll Be Over You", as well its accompanying video. Also in 1987 McDonald did a featured collaboration with American gospel group The Winans from their Decisions album: "Love Has No Color". That same year he performed the single "Sweet Freedom" that appeared on the soundtrack for the hit movie Running Scared.[citation needed]

McDonald's 1990 album Take It to Heart featured a minor hit with the title song, co-written with Diane Warren. The following year he joined the New York Rock and Soul Revue, put together by Steely Dan's Donald Fagen. 1991's "Ever Changing Times" with Aretha Franklin, a duet on Arista Records, had moderate success and radio play (peaking at number 19 on US R&B charts).[citation needed]

In 1999, McDonald recorded the song "Eyes of a Child" for the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, which is a comedic ballad written by Trey Parker. It was also used at the ending credits for the movie. The same year, he sang backing vocals on The Warren Brothers' single "Better Man", from their album Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World.[4] He also provided lead vocals for one of three studio tracks on Chicago XXVI: Live in Concert.

In 2003, he earned two Grammy nominations for his album Motown, a tribute to the Motown sound. A year later, Motown Two was released. The album follows the same blueprint as the first record, offering highly polished, professionally produced, expertly performed interpretations of gems from the Motown vaults.[citation needed]

McDonald has reunited as a guest performer with the Doobies several times since their initial dissolution in 1982 and joined Steely Dan on their 2006 summer tour, both as the opening act and as part of the band.[5]

In 2008 McDonald released his SoulSpeak album which (in addition to including three new songs penned by McDonald) featured his interpretations of 11 carefully selected soul-inspired songs, ranging from universal evergreens like Dionne Warwick's "Walk On By" and Stevie Wonder's "Living For The City" to lesser-known numbers like Van Morrison's atmospheric "Into The Mystic" and the late 60s Chicago soul of Tyrone Davis' "Baby Can I Change My Mind".[6]


In 2000, McDonald, along with partners Chris Pelonis and actor Jeff Bridges, founded the independent recording label Rampe St. Louis Walk of Fame.[7] McDonald recorded a duet with Ray Charles on Charles' 2004 Genius Loves Company. In 2007, McDonald helped judge the 6th annual Independent Music Awards.[8] The following year, in 2008, McDonald performed "America the Beautiful" at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.[citation needed]

In 2006 Michael McDonald sang as a guest singer in the Jazz group Fourplay from the album "X" in a song called "My Love's Leavin'" [1]

In 2009, McDonald, along with the West Angeles COGIC Mass Choir, released the song “Storm Before the Calm” on the compilation album Oh Happy Day.[9] McDonald also contributed an alternate lead vocal track for "While You Wait for the Others", a single by the indie rock band Grizzly Bear, which released as a 7" single.[10]

In December 2009, McDonald donated his performance to Keep the Beat in Santa Barbara, California, where he played to a maximum capacity crowd at the newly renovated Granada Theater. Harry Rabin, producer & head of Keep the Beat, an initiative of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, produced the show, including two Video productions and worked with student chorale groups from Primary and secondary schools as well as a brass section so they could perform in the show with Michael and his band.[11] On hand for the performance were Dave Mason, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, members of the band Venice and the event was hosted by Harry Rabin and emceed by Jay Thomas.[citation needed]

In 2009, Michael McDonald appeared on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock as one of the benefit singers in the season finale episode "Kidney Now!".[12]

Singer Michael McDonald performed the national anthem before the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between the Boise State Broncos and TCU Horned Frogs at the University of Phoenix Stadium on January 4, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.[13]

Michael McDonald sang "Takin' It to the Streets" on the final episode of American Idol, season nine, in 2010.[citation needed]

In 2010, Michael McDonald released 'The Voice of Michael McDonald', a compilation of The Doobie Brothers and Michael McDonald hits, and duets with various artists. The album includes yet another re-recording of Aaron Neville's 1966 song 'Tell It Like It Is', done in the style of Michael McDonald.[citation needed]

Recently Michael McDonald has contributed backing vocals for the synthpop band Holy Ghost! self-titled album on their song "Some Children."[citation needed]

In the summer of 2010, Michael McDonald toured with Donald Fagen and Boz Scaggs, performing together as one band billed as The Dukes of September. The show included classic rock, soul/R&B songs by various artists and personal repertoire songs from all three headliners.[citation needed]

McDonald re-teamed with the Doobie Brothers for the track "Don't Say Goodbye" on the band's thirteenth album World Gone Crazy.[citation needed]

In 2013, McDonald settled a $500,000 breach of contract suit (out of court) with Warner music over underpayment of royalties of online sales.[14]

In March 2014, McDonald reunited with the Doobie Brothers to record a brand new album that would be released featuring the greatest hits of the Doobies' 40+ year career. This project was done in conjunction with Sony Music Nashville. On the album, McDonald shares lead vocals with Sara Evans for What a Fool Believes, Love and Theft for Takin' it to the Streets, and Amanda Sudano-Ramirez for You Belong to Me. The album, entitled Southbound, was released on November 4, 2014 as the Doobie Brothers' fourteenth studio album.

In the summer of 2014, McDonald co-headlined a US tour with the band Toto.[15]

On November 5, 2014, McDonald and the Doobie Brothers were featured musical guests on the 47th Annual CMA Awards to celebrate the release of Southbound. They were joined by Hunter Hayes, Jennifer Nettles, and Hillary Scott in their performance of "Listen to the Music". At the end of the awards ceremony, they were also joined by host Brad Paisley for "Takin' it to the Streets".

Personal life

McDonald has been married to singer Amy Holland since 1983 and they have two children, Dylan (born 1987) and Scarlett (born 1991). He moved with his family to Santa Barbara in the late 1990s.[16]


Band members

Bernie Chiaravalle, guitar; Mark Douthit, saxophone, keyboards; Lanice Morrison, bass; Yvette "Baby Girl" Preyer; drums, keyboards; Pat Coil, Tambourine; Keith "Arthur" Merritt



  • 1979: Record of the Year for "What a Fool Believes" (The Doobie Brothers)
  • 1979: Song of the Year for "What a Fool Believes" (with Kenny Loggins)
  • 1979: Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for "Minute by Minute" (The Doobie Brothers)
  • 1979: Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals for "What a Fool Believes" (The Doobie Brothers)
  • 1984: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "Yah Mo B There" (with James Ingram)
  • 1979: Album of the Year for Minute By Minute (The Doobie Brothers)
  • 1982: Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male for "I Keep Forgettin'"
  • 1984: Best R&B Song for "Yah Mo B There" (with James Ingram, Rod Temperton, and Quincy Jones)
  • 1986: Best Pop Vocal Performance - Male for "Sweet Freedom"
  • 1986: Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for "On My Own" (with Patti Labelle)
  • 2003: Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"
  • 2003: Best Pop Vocal Album for "Motown"

In popular culture

A fictionalized version of McDonald (portrayed by actor JD Ryznar) appeared in the online Channel 101 video series Yacht Rock. McDonald was parodied in a Second City Television skit in the early 1980s, where he is portrayed by Rick Moranis.[17]

In the 2005 comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the manager of the electronics store has a fondness for McDonald and insists on repeatedly playing one of his live concerts on the big-screen televisions, driving her employees crazy.[18]

In the Family Guy episode, Padre de Familia, McDonald is hired by Peter Griffin as a backup singer during a night of patrolling Quahog.[19]

In The Cleveland Show, he is Cleveland's neighbor on Grace Street and can be seen in the episodes "Skip Day" and "Mama Drama".[20][21]

On March 13, 2013, he appeared in a segment on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. McDonald, Fallon, and Justin Timberlake sang "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" in the round, with Fallon and Timberlake sporting McDonald's trademark white hair and emulating his distinct vocal style.[22]


  1. ^ Profile of Michael McDonald by Stephen Thomas Erlewine;
  2. ^ Penhollow, Steve. "He's takin' it to the Embassy". The Journal Gazette. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  3. ^ "– Grammy winners". 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  4. ^ Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World (CD insert). The Warren Brothers. BNA Records. 1998. 67678. 
  5. ^ Steely Dan website: Tour '06. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  6. ^ "Michael McDonald interview by Pete Lewis, ''Blues & Soul'', April 2008". Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  7. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame – Michael McDonald. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  8. ^ Independent Music Awards – 6th Annual Judges
  9. ^ "Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day"". Reuters. March 27, 2009. 
  10. ^ "Michael McDonald Sings on New Grizzly Bear Single". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  11. ^ "Santa Barbara Education Foundation". Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  12. ^ "‘30 Rock’ ‘Kidney Now!’ Song Inspires 'We Are The World' Nostalgia". MTV. 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  13. ^ "'Fiesta Bowl'". 
  14. ^ Bobby Allyn, The Tennessean 11:34 a.m. EDT July 15, 2013 (2013-07-15). "Singer Michael McDonald reaches online music deal". USA Today. Retrieved 2014-01-27. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ "PBS Bio". PBS. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  17. ^ "SCTV 3 Gerry Todd and Michael McDonald". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  18. ^ "Michael McDonald Hits Back at '40-Year-Old Virgin' Joke". Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  19. ^ "Family Guy Season 6 Episode 6: Padre de Familia". Fox Broadcasting Company. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  20. ^ "The Cleveland Show Season 3 Episode 4: Skip Day". Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  21. ^ "The Cleveland Show Season 3 Episode 21: Mama Drama". Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  22. ^ "Justin Timberlake Spoofs Michael McDonald on 'Fallon' Former Doobie Brothers singer joins in on the fun". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 

External links