In 2004, close to three decades after introducing his husky baritone and blue eyed soul style into the lexicon of the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald was nominated for two pop vocal Grammys for mining the riches of Motown. Still an active touring performer some twenty years after first disbanding the Doobies, he now gives his audience a double dose of nostalgia featuring the music that inspired his career and the hits that sustained it.
McDonald's lifelong relationship with the Motown catalog goes back beyond his 70s days in California, where he recorded with Steely Dan before finding fame and fortune with The Doobie Brothers via hits like "Takin' It To the Streets" and "What A Fool Believes." Born in St. Louis in 1952, he was the teenage keyboard player, guitarist and singer in local combos such as Mike and the Majestics, the Del Rays and an outfit called Blue.
Working in clubs, he had to develop a style of singing that would allow him to sing all night long without being hoarse the next day. and his style came mostly from that. Emulating soul singers over the years, McDonald learned all the little vocal trademarks, which ultimately wound up becoming his highly-recognizeable vocal style.
McDonald scored his first record deal with RCA in 1972, but found more immediate success adding his timbre to classic Steely Dan songs like "Peg" and "Time Out of Mind." Joining the Doobies in the mid-70s, he was instrumental in steering their sound towards a more commercial soul-based rock. Some hardcore fans cried foul, but his hit streak with the band was undeniable, peaking with 1978's Minute By Minute and its Grammy winning hit "What A Fool Believes," written with Kenny Loggins. During this time he also collaborated with artists like Carly Simon ("You Belong To Me") and Christopher Cross.
Following his departure from the band in 1982, McDonald immediately launched his successful solo career. During the 80s, he had his compositions recorded by numerous artists, including Aretha Franklin and Millie Jackson. He came close to the top of the U.S. charts in 1982 with the soulful "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)," and his "Yah Mo B There', recorded with James Ingram in 1984, became a modern soul classic.
Expanding his stylistic territory, his 1985 album No Lookin' Back was a dance favorite, and was followed the next year by his #1 duet with Patti LaBelle, "On My Own". Also in 1986, he scored enjoyed an international hit with "Running Scared," theme from the movie Running Scared.
The 90s were a hit and miss affair for McDonald, who was always a popular live attraction even as recordings like 1990's Take It To Heart met with little success. In 1992, his profile increased with the Aretha Franklin duet "Ever Changing Times," and McDonald toured with Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue. In 1994, "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" was sampled heavily on Warren G's rap hit "Regulate." By 1996, McDonald had returned to the Doobie Brothers, eager to tour the oldies circuit with the reunited group.