“. . . his mixture of tenderness and passion is so relentless, he can infuse just about any lyric with conviction.”
—Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone Magazine
Michael McDonald is certainly one of the biggest names in music, with one of the most distinctive voices, and it all started right here in the Show Me State. He became a worldwide star with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, but he went on to even larger success as a solo artist. His songs are instantly recognizable, and he continues to impact new generations of fans with an incredible legacy of hit music.
THE EARLY YEARS
Michael McDonald was born on February 12, 1952, in St. Louis and was raised in the suburb of Ferguson. He started performing on stage before he was even in high school with the band Mike and the Majestics. He performed with a number of bands around the St. Louis area throughout his years at McCluer High School, but he dreamed of bigger fame. At age eighteen, he made the move to California to pursue a full-time music career.
RISE TO FAME
Michael spent two years on the West Coast without finding much work. He was making demo records and networking with influential music industry insiders when he learned that the group Steely Dan was looking for a singer and musician. He tried out for the band, nailed the audition, landed the job, and was soon
thereafter traveling the world with the group.
McDonald enjoyed a great deal of success with the group but was playing a secondary role. After working with Steely Dan for three years, he found out that the Doobie Brothers were looking for a new member to replace singer and musician Tommy Johnston. Another member of the “Doobies” suggested giving Michael a shot, and the rest, they say, is musical history.
SHOW ME SUCCESS
The Doobie Brothers released the song “Takin’ It to the Streets” in 1976 with Michael on lead vocals. The song was a huge hit, which put him on the map as an artist and on music magazines everywhere. The band had a winning combination with McDonald on the microphone, providing them with numerous hits and sold-out concert tours. That success also helped Michael and the band win multiple Grammys, but Michael was looking for another change to expand his abilities, so he struck out on his own and pursue a solo career.
McDonald continued his string of success when he released his first solo album in 1982. He was one of the most popular artists on the radio, not only with his fans but also with other musicians. In addition to his solo work, he performed duets with stars like Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross, Aretha Franklin, and James Ingram.
Even though musical styles have changed over the years, McDonald continues to reinvent himself and remains one of the most dynamic and unique performers in the music industry. His legion of fans, both in and out of the business, was never more evident than at a tribute concert to McDonald in 2000 when musicians Kenny Loggins, Boz Skaggs, James Ingram, Patti LaBelle, Steve Winwood, and others performed his songs to a sold-out auditorium in Los Angeles.
He has found a fan base in rock music, easy listening, rhythm and blues, and smooth jazz. He has spent nearly four decades on top of the charts, which places
him in a category very few artists will ever achieve.
*What a Fool Believes in 1977 is one of his biggest albums ever and won four Grammys including Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
*McDonald teamed up with the Doobie Brothers in 1995 for a reunion tour.