Michael McDonald (singer)

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For other people named Michael McDonald, see Michael McDonald (disambiguation).
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 63)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals, keyboards
Years active 1974–present
Labels Warner Bros., Reprise
Associated acts
Website michaelmcdonald.com

Michael McDonald (born February 12, 1952) is an American singer and songwriter. He is known for his soulful baritone voice.[1] His early career included singing with Steely Dan. He joined The Doobie Brothers in 1976 and remained an integral member until 1982. He has won five Grammy Awards.

Early years[edit]

McDonald was born into an Irish American Catholic family[2] in St. Louis, Missouri. He was discovered while playing in the musical group Blue and consequently moved to Los Angeles in 1970.[citation needed]

Steely Dan[edit]

In 1974 he became a member of the touring group of Steely Dan. 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.[3] He would return on subsequent Steely Dan recordings including 1976's The Royal Scam[4] and 1977's Aja.[5] He also played keyboards on some Steely Dan tracks.[6] McDonald continued to do background vocals for Steely Dan through their 1980 release, Gaucho.[7] He was part of Steely Dan's touring band in the 1970s, playing keyboards and singing lead and backup vocals.

Doobie Brothers[edit]

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 No. 1 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[edit]

"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.

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.[8] 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 gospel group The Winans from their Decisions album titled "Love Has No Color". That same year he performed the single "Sweet Freedom" that appeared on the soundtrack for the hit movie Running Scared.

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.

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.[9] 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. Reviewer Stephen Thomas Erlewine stated, "The album follows the same blueprint as the first record, offering highly polished, professionally produced, expertly performed interpretations of gems from the Motown vaults."[10]

McDonald has reunited as a guest performer with the Doobies several times since the band's initial dissolution in 1982 and joined Steely Dan on its 2006 summer tour, both as the opening act and as part of the band.[11]

In 2008 McDonald released his SoulSpeak album, which includes three new songs penned by McDonald, and covers of songs by Dionne Warwick ("Walk On By"), Stevie Wonder ("Living For The City"), Van Morrison ("Into The Mystic"), Tyrone Davis ("Baby Can I Change My Mind"), and others.[12]


In 2000, McDonald, along with partners Chris Pelonis and actor Jeff Bridges, founded the independent recording label Rampe St. Louis Walk of Fame.[13] McDonald recorded a duet with Ray Charles on Charles' 2004 Genius Loves Company. In 2007, McDonald helped judge the sixth annual Independent Music Awards.[14]

In 2006, 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.[15] 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-inch single.[16]

In December 2009, McDonald donated his performance to Keep the Beat in Santa Barbara, California, where he played to a capacity crowd at the newly renovated Granada Theater. Harry Rabin, producer and head of Keep the Beat, an initiative of the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, produced the show, including two video productions and worked with student choral groups from primary and secondary schools as well as a brass section so they could perform in the show with Michael and his band.[17]

In 2009, McDonald appeared on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock as one of the benefit singers in the season finale episode "Kidney Now!".[18]

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.[19]

McDonald sang "Takin' It to the Streets" on the American Idol, season nine finale, in 2010.[20]

McDonald re-teamed with the Doobie Brothers for the track "Don't Say Goodbye" on the band's 13th album, World Gone Crazy.[21]

In 2013, McDonald settled a $500,000 breach-of-contract suit (out of court) with Warner music over underpayment of royalties of online sales.[22]

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-plus-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, titled Southbound, was released on November 4, 2014, as the Doobie Brothers' 14th studio album.

In the summer of 2014, McDonald co-headlined a U.S. tour with the band Toto.[23]

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[edit]

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.[24]


Band members[edit]

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

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammy Awards
Year Category Nominated work Result
1979 Record of the Year "What a Fool Believes" (The Doobie Brothers) Won
1979 Song of the Year "What a Fool Believes" (co-written with Kenny Loggins) Won
1979 "Minute by Minute" (co-written with Lester Abrams) Nominated
1979 Album of the Year Minute by Minute (The Doobie Brothers) Nominated
1979 Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus "Minute by Minute" (The Doobie Brothers) Won
1982 Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" Nominated
1984 Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal "Yah Mo B There" (with James Ingram) Won
1984 Best R&B Song "Yah Mo B There" (with James Ingram, Rod Temperton, and Quincy Jones) Nominated
1986 Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male "Sweet Freedom" Nominated
1986 Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group "On My Own" (with Patti Labelle) Nominated
2003 Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Nominated
2003 Best Pop Vocal Album Motown Nominated

In popular culture[edit]

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.[25]

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.[26]

In the Family Guy episode Padre de Familia, McDonald is hired by Peter Griffin as a backup singer during a night of patrolling Quahog.[27]

In The Cleveland Show, he is Cleveland's neighbor on Grace Street and can be seen in the episodes "Skip Day" and "Mama Drama".[28][29]

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.[30]


  1. ^ Profile of Michael McDonald by Stephen Thomas Erlewine; www.allmusic.com.
  2. ^ Penhollow, Steve. "He's takin' it to the Embassy". The Journal Gazette. Retrieved 2014-05-15. 
  3. ^ "Katy Lied - Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  4. ^ "Royal Scam - Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  5. ^ "Aja - Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "Citizen Steel Dan - Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  7. ^ "Gaucho - Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  8. ^ "– Grammy winners". Grammy.com. 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  9. ^ Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World (CD insert). The Warren Brothers. BNA Records. 1998. 67678. 
  10. ^ "Motown Two - Michael McDonald". AllMusic. 
  11. ^ Steely Dan website: Tour '06. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  12. ^ "Michael McDonald interview by Pete Lewis, ''Blues & Soul'', April 2008". Bluesandsoul.com. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  13. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame – Michael McDonald. Retrieved 2008-08-16.
  14. ^ Independent Music Awards – 6th Annual Judges
  15. ^ "Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day"". Reuters. March 27, 2009. 
  16. ^ "Michael McDonald Sings on New Grizzly Bear Single". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  17. ^ "Santa Barbara Education Foundation". Sbefoundation.org. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  18. ^ "‘30 Rock’ ‘Kidney Now!’ Song Inspires 'We Are The World' Nostalgia". MTV. 2009-05-15. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  19. ^ "'Fiesta Bowl'". 
  20. ^ "'American Idol' Crowns A Winner: The Live Blog". MTV News. 
  21. ^ "World Gone Crazy Overview". Allmusic. Retrieved September 30, 2010. 
  22. ^ 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. 
  23. ^ michaelmcdonald.com
  24. ^ "PBS Bio". PBS. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  25. ^ "SCTV 3 Gerry Todd and Michael McDonald". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 
  26. ^ "Michael McDonald Hits Back at '40-Year-Old Virgin' Joke". Starpulse.com. Retrieved 2013-02-05. 
  27. ^ "Family Guy Season 6 Episode 6: Padre de Familia". Fox Broadcasting Company. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  28. ^ "The Cleveland Show Season 3 Episode 4: Skip Day". TV.com. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  29. ^ "The Cleveland Show Season 3 Episode 21: Mama Drama". TV.com. Retrieved February 17, 2014. 
  30. ^ "Justin Timberlake Spoofs Michael McDonald on 'Fallon' Former Doobie Brothers singer joins in on the fun". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2013-03-18. 

External links[edit]