What a Fool Believes

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"What a Fool Believes"
What a Fool Believes by The Doobie Brothers US vinyl 7-inch.jpg
Artwork for one of US 7-inch vinyl pressings, also used for the parent album
Single by The Doobie Brothers
from the album Minute by Minute
B-side"Don't Stop to Watch the Wheels"
ReleasedJanuary 1979
RecordedAugust 1978
StudioWarner Bros. Recording Studios, North Hollywood, California
Length3:41 (Album / Single Version)
5:28 (Extended Version)
LabelWarner Bros.
Songwriter(s)Michael McDonald,
Kenny Loggins
Producer(s)Ted Templeman
The Doobie Brothers singles chronology
"Nothin' But a Heartache"
"What a Fool Believes"
"Minute by Minute"

"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. Debuting at number 73 on January 20, 1979, the single reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 14, 1979, for one week.[6] The song received Grammy Awards in 1980 for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

The song was one of the few non-disco No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during the first eight months of 1979. The 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 McDonald and Kenny Loggins who had wanted to collaborate for some time wrote the song together in Los Angeles. Loggins went to McDonald's house and heard him playing a tune on piano, and suggested they work on that as he already had a hook line, "She had a place in his life" in mind. The song they wrote was influenced by songs they grew up listening to such as the Four Seasons' "Sherry" and "Walk Like a Man". They finished the song by the following day.[7]

Kenny Loggins version[edit]

"What a Fool Believes"
Song by Kenny Loggins
from the album Nightwatch
ReleasedJuly 12, 1978
GenreSoft rock
Songwriter(s)Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald
Producer(s)Bob James

Both Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald recorded the song around the same time. Loggins' version was a creative arrangement with producer Bob James.[7] Loggins released his version of "What a Fool Believes" five months prior to the Doobie Brothers version on his second album Nightwatch, released on July 12, 1978.

The Doobie Brothers version[edit]

The Doobie Brothers with McDonald on vocals recorded a version with producer Ted Templeman. They recorded numerous takes of its rhythm track over five or six days, but had problem finding a version that they liked, and Templeman ended up playing drums with Keith Knudsen to try to achieve a "floppy feel" with the song.[8] Templeman eventually decided, to the band's horror, to cut up the master tape of a recording into sections, and put together a usable version. McDonald came up with the rest of the arrangement, adding the keyboard, vocals and strings to the song. The resulting song was stylistically unlike any song the Doobie Brothers had done before.[7] Templeman was still not satisfied with the result; when he played the song to the executives of Warner Bros., he suggested discarding the song, but they said: "Are you crazy? That's great!"[7]

In December 1978, five months after Loggins' original recording was released, the Doobie Brothers included their version on their album Minute by Minute, with their version being released as a single the following month. This is the best-known version of the song, debuting at number 73 on the Billboard Hot 100 on January 20, 1979, and then reaching number one on April 14, 1979, for one week.[6]

This version received Grammy Awards in 1980 for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Apparently as a joke, Michael Jackson claimed in a videotaped phone conversation with Elizabeth Taylor in 2003 that he contributed at least one backing track to the original Doobie Brothers recording, but was not credited for having done so. Entertainment Tonight broadcast this claim with viewers being unaware that Jackson was joking. The band later denied his participation.[9]


Billboard praised the vocal performance, synthesizers and production.[10] The reviewer described the song as building from a melodic first verse "to a heart warming hook chorus".[10] Cash Box said it has an "easy funk backing, strings overhead and characteristically unique vocals which soar upwards."[11] Record World said that in the song the Doobie Brothers go to "an easy going beat with distinctive lead and high harmony hook."[12]

Ultimate Classic Rock critic Michael Gallucci rated "What a Fool Believes" as the Doobie Brothers all-time greatest song, particularly praising "McDonald's soulful vocals and soft and warm keyboard riffs."[13] In 2021, it was listed at No. 343 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".[14]


Additional players



Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[33] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[34] Gold 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Other versions by Loggins and McDonald[edit]

A live version appears on Loggins' 1980 album Kenny Loggins Alive. Loggins' original version switches several of the gender pronouns, so that it is sung largely from the perspective of the woman in the encounter.[citation needed]

A reissue of the single was released in 1987 credited to the Doobie Brothers featuring Michael McDonald. It was included on McDonald's 1986 compilation album Sweet Freedom and was credited here as Michael McDonald with the Doobie Brothers. It reached No. 57 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1987.[35]

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

Warner Brothers also released a 12-inch single disco version by the Doobie Brothers in 1978 (backed with "Don't Stop to Watch the Wheels"), which peaked at number 40 on Billboard's Disco Action Chart in April 1979. Mixed by disco producer Jim Burgess, at 5:31 the song is considerably longer than the 3:41 versions on the 7-inch single and the Minute by Minute LP. The 12-inch version also has a more pronounced bass-driven drumbeat.[36]

Matt Bianco version[edit]

"What a Fool Believes"
Single by Matt Bianco
from the album Samba in Your Casa
  • "Samba in Your Casa (Cashassa Mix)"
  • "Say It's Not Too Late"
GenreLatin jazz
LabelEastWest Records
Songwriter(s)Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins

British band Matt Bianco released their version of "What a Fool Believes" as a single in 1991. It is from their fourth album Samba in Your Casa. The single reached No. 23 on the Irish Singles Chart in early 1992.[37]

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:


  1. ^ "Doobie Brothers should be members of the Rock Hall of Fame | Goldmine Magazine". Goldminemag.com. February 12, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  2. ^ "Grammy Awards Record of the Year Winners". Top40.about.com. April 10, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
  3. ^ "VH1's 40 Most Softsational Soft-Rock Songs". Stereogum. SpinMedia. May 31, 2007. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  4. ^ "Michael McDonald". Goldstar.
  5. ^ "Michael McDonald | Biography & History". AllMusic.
  6. ^ a b Joel Whitburn, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 1996, Billboard Books, p. 189
  7. ^ a b c d Gilbert, Ben (October 17, 2022). "'I was ready to throw the tape away': how we made What a Fool Believes by the Doobie Brothers". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Wadhams, Wayne; Gedutis Lindsay, Susan (2001). Inside the hits. Berklee Press. p. 408. ISBN 9780634014307.
  9. ^ "Rumor Debunked: Michael Jackson Never Sang on a Doobie Brothers Record". Ultimate Classic Rock. April 18, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Top Single Picks" (PDF). Billboard. January 27, 1979. p. 102. Retrieved July 9, 2020.
  11. ^ "CashBox Singles Reviews" (PDF). Cash Box. January 20, 1979. p. 18. Retrieved 2022-01-01.
  12. ^ "Hits of the Week" (PDF). Record World. January 27, 1979. p. 1. Retrieved 2023-02-12.
  13. ^ Gallucci, Michael (February 12, 2013). "Top 10 Doobie Brothers songs". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2022-06-15.
  14. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2021-09-15. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  15. ^ Templeman, Ted; Renoff, Greg (2020). Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer's Life in Music. ECW Press. p. 285. ISBN 978-1770414839.
  16. ^ "Classic Tracks: The Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes"". May 2004. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  17. ^ Templeman, Ted; Renoff, Greg (2020). Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer's Life in Music. ECW Press. pp. 283–284. ISBN 978-1770414839.
  18. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 92. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  19. ^ "The Doobie Brothers – What a Fool Believes" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  20. ^ "RPM 100 Singles" (PDF). April 28, 1979. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
  21. ^ "Item Display - RPM - Library and Archives Canada". Collectionscanada.gc.ca. May 12, 1978. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  22. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – What a Fool Believes". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
  23. ^ "The Doobie Brothers – What a Fool Believes" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  24. ^ "NZ Top 40 Singles Chart | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Nztop40.co.nz. May 20, 1979. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  25. ^ Joel Whitburn's Top Pop Singles 1955–1990 - ISBN 0-89820-089-X
  26. ^ The Doobie Brothers Chart History (Dance Club Songs) - https://www.billboard.com/artist/the-doobie-brothers/chart-history/dsi/
  27. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending April 7, 1979". Archived from the original on February 5, 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2018.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)Cash Box magazine.
  28. ^ "Kent Music Report No 288 – 31 December 1979 > National Top 100 Singles for 1979". Kent Music Report. Retrieved January 10, 2023 – via Imgur.com.
  29. ^ "Image : RPM Weekly - Library and Archives Canada". Bac-lac.gc.ca. July 17, 2013. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  30. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1979 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Nztop40.co.nz. December 31, 1979. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  31. ^ "Top 100 Hits of 1979/Top 100 Songs of 1979". Musicoutfitters.com. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  32. ^ "Year-End Charts: Top 100 Pop Singles". Cash Box. December 29, 1979. Archived from the original on December 13, 2010. Retrieved April 3, 2018.
  33. ^ "British single certifications – Doobie Brothers – What a Fool Believes". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  34. ^ "American single certifications – Doobie Brothers – What a Fool Believes". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  35. ^ "DOOBIE BROTHERS AND MICHAEL MCDONALD | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Officialcharts.com.
  36. ^ "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"
  37. ^ "The Irish Charts - All there is to know". Irishcharts.ie.
  38. ^ Aretha Franklin has two versions of this song, with the 1999 version being an edited version of the 1980 one.
  39. ^ "George Michael". Archived from the original on July 13, 2007. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
  40. ^ "Album | The Wades | The Feel Good Factor". Soulandfunkmusic.com. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  41. ^ "UNCHAIN - Love & Groove Delivery". April 14, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2021.

Further reading[edit]

Templeman, Ted; Renoff, Greg (2020). Ted Templeman: A Platinum Producer's Life In Music. Toronto: ECW Press. pp. 280–5. ISBN 9781770414839. OCLC 1121143123.