Michael McDonald's recognizable, husky baritone voice has become his trademark throughout his long musical career. He was able to successfully bridge rock, adult contemporary, and soul music through his work with the Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, and his own solo albums. McDonald has become known as one of the great soul vocalists of the past 25 years.
Michael was born in St. Louis, Missouri, which is where he first began his musical career. He performed in local bands such The Majestics and Jerry Jay and The Sheratons throughout his early life. In the 1970s, McDonald relocated to Los Angeles, California and quickly joined up with a band. He sang backup for Steely Dan for several years before joining the Doobie Brothers.
McDonald is probably most known for his work with the Doobie Brothers. He joined in 1977 and quickly began steering the group in a new direction. Their music transformed to a more jazzy, soul-oriented sound. McDonald wrote and sang several of their top hit songs including 'Takin' It to the Streets', 'You Belong to Me', and the number one song 'What a Fool Believes'. Despite their success, the Doobie Brothers announced their farewell tour in 1981, and Michael began his solo career.
Even while the Doobie Brothers were together, McDonald had experimented on solo work of his own. If That's What It Takes, McDonald's first solo album, was released in 1982. His first single was 'I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)', and it reached number four on the charts. In 1986, he reached number one with 'On My Own', a duet with Patti Labelle.
Such collaborations were nothing new to McDonald. He had also worked on projects with Donna Summer, Kenny Loggins, and Christopher Cross. McDonald also had hits with James Ingram and the Winans. In the 1990s, he sung a duet with Aretha Franklin and toured with Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue, which had considerable box office ticket sales.
Shortly afterwards, Michael returned with the Doobie Brothers for an oldies tour. Touring with several other oldie groups, the Doobie Brothers were a huge success. Ticket sales were enormous all over the country. After the tour, McDonald began
production on his next album, Blue Obsession. After three years, he finally had an agreement with a record label, and it was released.
In 2002, he wanted to revisit the genre, which had most highly influenced his career. He released Motown, an album covering the Motown artists, recorded for Motown. It quickly became McDonald's biggest hit in a decade with modern covers of 'Heard It Through the Grapevine', 'How Sweet it Is', and 'Distant Lover'.
During his career, Michael McDonald won five Grammys and helped to define the soul sound of the 70s and 80s. Just as he was influenced by the sounds of Motown artists, many future artists will be influenced by his contributions to the music industry.