What a Fool Believes

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"What a Fool Believes"
Single by The Doobie Brothers
from the album Minute by Minute
B-side Don't Stop To Watch The Wheels
Released January 1979
Format 7"
Recorded August 1978
Genre Funk, pop rock, soft rock[1][2]
Length 3:41
Label Warner Bros.
Writer(s) Michael McDonald,
Kenny Loggins
Producer(s) Ted Templeman
The Doobie Brothers singles chronology
"Echoes of Love"
"What a Fool Believes"
"Minute by Minute"
The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes" from Minute by Minute

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"What a Fool Believes" is a song written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. The best-known version was recorded by The Doobie Brothers (with McDonald singing lead vocals) for their 1978 album Minute by Minute. Bowing at #73 on 20 January 1979, the single reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on 14 April 1979 for one week.[3] The song received Grammy Awards in 1980 for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

"What a Fool Believes" was one of the few non-disco No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1979. The song lyrics tell a story of a man who is reunited with an old love interest and attempts to rekindle a romantic relationship with her before discovering that one never really existed.

Michael Jackson contributed at least one backing track to the original Doobie Brothers recording, but was not credited for having done so.[4]

Other versions by Loggins and McDonald[edit]

Kenny Loggins released a version of the song (five months prior to The Doobie Brothers) on his 1978 album Nightwatch, and a live version on his 1980 album Kenny Loggins Alive.

There is a Loggins/McDonald live duet on Loggins' 1993 album Outside: From the Redwoods.[5]

Warner Brothers also released a 12" single disco version by The Doobie Brothers (backed with "Don't Stop to Watch the Wheels"). Mixed by disco producer Jim Burgess, at 5:31 the song is considerably longer than the 3:41 versions on the 7" single and the Minute by Minute LP. The 12" version also has a more pronounced bass-driven drumbeat.[6][7]

Live versions of the song often feature a guitar bridge after the second verse.

Matt Bianco version[edit]

"What a Fool Believes"
Single by Matt Bianco
from the album Samba in Your Casa
B-side "Samba in Your Casa" (Cashassa Mix)
"Say It's Not Too Late"
Released 1991
Format 12"
Genre Latin jazz
Length 4:23
Label East West
Writer(s) Michael McDonald,
Kenny Loggins

"What a Fool Believes" is a 12" vinyl EP by Matt Bianco, released in 1991.

Track listing[edit]

  • A. "What a Fool Believes" (Mixed by Bobby Summerfield)
  • B1. "Samba in Your Casa" (Cashassa Mix) (Mixed by Bobby Summerfield)
  • B2. "Say It's Not Too Late"

Other cover versions[edit]

Numerous cover versions of the song have been recorded, including:

While not a cover version, the 1980 hit "Steal Away" by Robbie Dupree is built around a keyboard riff which is notably similar to that of the Doobie Brothers hit. Another hit song that has a very strong reference to some of the keyboard riffs and vocal melodies of "What a Fool Believes" is the 1980 Ronnie Milsap hit "If You Don't Want Me To" that spawned the popular line dance 'The Freeze'.

Appearances in other media[edit]

  • A fictional account of the creation of this song was featured in the first episode (June 2005) of Yacht Rock, an Internet series featuring characters of Michael McDonald and the Doobies. In the parody, Kenny Loggins inspires McDonald to write the song after Doobie guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter threatens to kick McDonald out of the band unless he writes a hit song for them.
  • The song was used in "The Monkey Suit", the 21st episode of the 17th season (14 May 2006) of The Simpsons TV show. It was used as background music for an animatronic representation of biblical creation theory.
  • The song was used in several Stella shorts, including "Whiffleball," "Audition" and "Poker."
  • The song was featured on the original movie soundtrack of Frankie and Johnny.
  • A cover of the song was featured on an episode of the television show 30 Rock entitled "St. Valentine's Day".
  • The song was featured in Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear review of the E60 BMW M5.
  • A cover of Petula Clark's "Downtown" on the Canadian sketch comedy series SCTV includes a variation of the beginning of "What a Fool Believes". A Michael McDonald impersonator sings backup in the song.
  • Another Michael McDonald lookalike sings the song's melody with different words in the Late Night with Conan O'Brien sketch "The Camp Michael McDonald Channel". The McDonald impersonator also sings different words to the tune of "Takin' It to the Streets" and McDonald's solo hit "Sweet Freedom".
  • MF Doom sampled the song in "Mandrake", an instrumental beat on his "Metalfingers Presents: Special Herbs, The Box Set" collection.
  • The Doobie Brothers performed the song as the musical guests on the 27 January 1979 episode of Saturday Night Live (season 4).
  • The song was used in the movie "Personal Best." Vincent Canby's reference to "not great pop music" appearing on the soundtrack in his New York Times review is likely about this song.
  • The song is also featured in a Toyota Japanese TV commercial "Corolla Hybrid Jeans" where the mayor of Toyotown (Takuya Kimura) and two Toyota Corolla Fielder Hybrids in his garage are featured, with the commercial theme, "Love and Jeans".
  • A short parody of the song was sung by Will Sasso on his Vine account. The parody has been popularized by video gaming site Achievement Hunter, and has been played repeatedly on many of their videos.
  • The song was featured in Grand Theft Auto V on the in-game radio station Los Santos Rock Radio, where the song's co-writer, Kenny Loggins, is the station's DJ. It is more prominently featured in the mission 'Crystal Maze' where character Trevor Phillips, after growing furious over a fallen business deal, enters his truck to hear the song playing. He screams "Ah, this music's all fucking wrong!", shortly before changing the channel to punk station Channel X.
  • The lyric "no wise man has the power" was referenced on the high school information sign on episode 2 of season 2 of Danger 5.


  1. ^ "Doobie Brothers should be members of the Rock Hall of Fame | Goldmine Magazine". Goldminemag.com. 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  2. ^ "Grammy Awards Record of the Year Winners". Top40.about.com. 2012-04-10. Retrieved 2013-01-10. 
  3. ^ Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 1996, Billboard Books, p.189
  4. ^ "Michael Jackson Singing Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute _ What a Fool Believes - RARE". YouTube. 2010-01-31. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 
  5. ^ There is a video of this performance on YouTube titled: "Kenny Loggins What A Fool Believes Live 1992".
  6. ^ What A Fool Believes (12"), discomusic.com. They comment: Disco from an unlikely artist ... "What A Fool Believes" was remixed by the late Jim Burgess to enhance its dance floor appeal. Another good Doobie Brothers 12 inch release was "Real Love".
  7. ^ This 12" single was recorded at 33⅓ rpm, which enables better bass response; see 12-inch single for more information.
  8. ^ a b Aretha Franklin has two versions of this song, with the 1999 version being an edited version of the 1980 one.
  9. ^ George Michael at musiclovers.de. What a Fool Believes appears as track 14 on this bootleg recording, and is designated as one of George Michael's "rare recording"s. Most recently retrieved: 2007-09-14.
  10. ^ The Wades at Soul and funk music.com. Most recently retrieved: 2007-09-14.
  11. ^ Lackthereof web site. Most recently retrieved: 2007-09-14.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
"Tragedy" by The Bee Gees
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
April 14, 1979
Succeeded by
"Knock on Wood" by Amii Stewart