Michael McDonald
McDonald performing live in 2019
Background information
Born (1952-02-12) February 12, 1952 (age 72)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
  • Musician
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
Years active1973–present
Member ofThe Doobie Brothers
Formerly of

Michael H. McDonald (born February 12, 1952) is an American singer, keyboardist and songwriter known for his distinctive, soulful voice and as a member of Steely Dan (1973–1974), and the Doobie Brothers (1975–1982, 1987, 2019–present). McDonald wrote and sang several hit singles with the Doobie Brothers, including "What a Fool Believes", "Minute by Minute", and "Takin' It to the Streets." McDonald has also performed as a prominent backing vocalist on numerous recordings by artists including Steely Dan, Toto, Christopher Cross, and Kenny Loggins.

McDonald's solo career consists of nine studio albums and a number of singles, including the 1982 hit "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)". During his career, McDonald has collaborated with a number of other artists, including James Ingram, David Cassidy, Van Halen, Patti LaBelle, Lee Ritenour, The Winans, Aretha Franklin, Toto,[2] Grizzly Bear,[3] Joni Mitchell, and Thundercat. He has also recorded for television and film soundtracks.

McDonald is the recipient of five Grammy Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Doobie Brothers in 2020.[4]

Early years

McDonald was born on February 12, 1952, into an Irish Catholic, Irish American family in Ferguson, Missouri,[5] a suburb of St. Louis. McDonald attended McCluer High School,[6] where he played in local bands, including Mike and the Majestics, Jerry Jay and the Sheratons, the Reeb-Toors/Younger Brothers and the Guild. In 1970, while playing with a band called Blue, he was discovered in an Illinois night club by RCA staff producer Rick Jarrard, who offered him a record contract and brought him to Los Angeles.[7][8][9][10]

Steely Dan

McDonald became a member of Steely Dan's touring band in 1973, singing lead and backing vocals. As he recalled in a 2016 interview:

I literally threw my piano in the back of my Pinto and drove down to where they were rehearsing and auditioned. Remarkably I got the gig, not because of my keyboard playing but because I could sing all the high parts. I could tell that appealed to Donald (Fagen)—'cause I could sing like a girl.[8]

McDonald became one of the many in-studio adjunct members of the band, providing backing vocals on tracks for 1975's Katy Lied.[11] He appeared on subsequent Steely Dan recordings, including 1976's The Royal Scam[12] and 1977's Aja.[13] He also played keyboards on some Steely Dan tracks.[14]

McDonald continued to provide backing vocals for Steely Dan through their 1980 release, Gaucho.[15] In 2006, he joined Steely Dan on the band's summer tour, both as the opening act and as part of the band.[16]

The Doobie Brothers

McDonald with the Doobie Brothers, 1976

McDonald was recruited by the Doobie Brothers in April 1975, initially as a temporary replacement for their lead vocalist Tom Johnston after he became ill during a national tour. McDonald's work with the band proved so successful that they decided to retain him as a full-time member.

As a member of the Doobie Brothers, McDonald sang lead vocals on some of the band's best-known songs, such as "Real Love", "Takin' It to the Streets", "Little Darling (I Need You)", "It Keeps You Runnin'", "Minute by Minute", and "What a Fool Believes" (which became a number-one 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, McDonald appeared as a session vocalist and keyboardist for various artists, including Christopher Cross, Stephen Bishop, Jack Jones, Bonnie Raitt, the band Toto, and Kenny Loggins. McDonald co-wrote "You Belong to Me" with Carly Simon, which is on the Doobie Brothers' studio album Livin' on the Fault Line (1977).[17]

McDonald has reunited as a guest performer with the Doobie Brothers several times since the band's initial dissolution in 1982.[16] He reteamed with them for the track "Don't Say Goodbye" on the band's thirteenth studio album, World Gone Crazy (2010).[18] In March 2014, he reunited with the band to record a new album featuring the greatest hits of their 40-plus-year career. This project was completed in conjunction with Sony Music Nashville. On the album, McDonald shares lead vocals with Sara Evans for "What a Fool Believes", the duo 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' fourteenth studio album.

On November 5, 2014, McDonald and the Doobie Brothers were featured musical guests on the 47th annual Country Music Association 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".

Solo career

After the Doobie Brothers' first farewell tour, McDonald released his first solo studio album, If That's What It Takes, in 1982, on the Warner Bros. label.[19] The album featured the hit singles "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" and "I Gotta Try", the latter co-written with Kenny Loggins, who also recorded it that same year for his fourth album High Adventure.

He continued to collaborate with other artists during this period. McDonald co-wrote Van Halen's top-20 hit "I'll Wait", from their biggest-selling album 1984. "Yah Mo B There", a duet with James Ingram, won the 27th Annual Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.[20] In 1985, he released his second studio album No Lookin' Back, his first time co-producing an album. He also wrote or co-wrote all of the tracks and featured a minor hit with the title track, cowritten by Kenny Loggins. By June 1986, the album had met with little success, but McDonald then had a huge boost with the release of the single "Sweet Freedom", which appeared on the soundtrack to the Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines film Running Scared, and was McDonald's last top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The No Lookin' Back album was then re-released in some markets with the new hit single included, as well as a few songs remixed. The single "On My Own", a duet with Patti LaBelle, reached number one on the U.S. charts in 1986. Mid that year, he performed as a backing vocalist on the rock band Toto's studio album Fahrenheit, appearing on the hit single "I'll Be Over You" and its accompanying video. On August 22, 1986, McDonald appeared in an episode of The Young and the Restless.[21][22] Later that year, he provided backing vocals on the Wang Chung song "A Fool and His Money" from their studio album Mosaic. In 1987, McDonald did a featured collaboration, titled "Love Has No Color", with gospel quartet the Winans from their studio album Decisions.

In 1990, McDonald released his third studio album, Take It to Heart, which featured a minor hit with the title track, co-written by Diane Warren. The following year, he joined the New York Rock and Soul Revue,[23] put together by Steely Dan's lead vocalist Donald Fagen and featuring other artists such as Boz Scaggs and Phoebe Snow. In 1991, he released the single "Ever Changing Times", a duet with Aretha Franklin.

In 1999, McDonald recorded the song "Eyes of a Child", a comedic ballad written by Trey Parker, for the South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut soundtrack. 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 studio album Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World.[24] He also provided lead vocals for one of three studio tracks on Chicago XXVI: Live in Concert.


McDonald performing in 2011

In 2003, McDonald earned two Grammy nominations for his sixth studio album Motown, a tribute to the Motown sound. A year later, Motown Two was released. Music critic 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."[25]

In 2000, McDonald, along with partners Chris Pelonis and actor Jeff Bridges, founded the independent recording label Ramp. On May 11, 2003, McDonald was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.[26] McDonald recorded a duet with Ray Charles on Charles' final studio album Genius Loves Company (2004). In 2007, McDonald helped judge the sixth annual Independent Music Awards.[27] In 2006, McDonald sang as a guest singer in the jazz quartet Fourplay from the studio album X, in a cover of Steve Winwood's song "My Love's Leavin'".[28]

In 2008, McDonald released his studio album Soul Speak, which includes three new songs penned by McDonald, and covers of songs originally made famous 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.[29] 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.[30] McDonald also contributed an alternate lead vocal track for the 7-inch single "While You Wait for the Others", by the indie rock band Grizzly Bear.[31]

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 McDonald and his band.[32]

In 2009, McDonald appeared on the satirical television sitcom 30 Rock as one of the benefit singers in the season finale episode "Kidney Now!".[33] 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.[34] McDonald sang "Takin' It to the Streets" on the American Idol season nine finale, in 2010.[35]

In 2010, McDonald teamed up again with Donald Fagen and Boz Scaggs, to form the Dukes of September. In June 2012, the supergroup performed on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to promote their tour. The group also played at Lincoln Center, a performance which was then broadcast as a PBS special and later released on DVD.

In 2013, McDonald settled a $500,000 breach-of-contract suit (out of court) with Warner Music over underpayment of royalties of online sales.[36] In the summer of 2014, he co-headlined a U.S. tour with the rock band Toto.[37] In 2017, McDonald was featured together with Kenny Loggins on Thundercat's single "Show You the Way", included on the latter's album Drunk.[38] In June 2017, McDonald, Loggins and Thundercat performed the song together on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.[39]

In 2018, he appeared as a guest vocalist on the song "What the World Needs Now" on Barbra Streisand's thirty-sixth studio album Walls.[citation needed] In 2021, McDonald was featured on "The Best of Me", from Toad the Wet Sprocket's seventh studio album, Starting Now.[40]

Personal life

McDonald has been married to singer Amy Holland since 1983. They have two children. He moved with his family to Santa Barbara, California, in the late 1990s, and later lived in Nashville.[41]


Main article: Michael McDonald discography

Touring band members

Awards and honors

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
1979 Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals "What a Fool Believes" 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 May 2011, Michael McDonald was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music.[42]



  1. ^ Harvey, Eric (June 25, 2014). "How Michael McDonald, The Affable Captain Of Yacht Rock, Lost His Voice". Deadspin. Retrieved April 19, 2021.
  2. ^ "Michael McDonald Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  3. ^ "Michael McDonald Spills About Working with Grizzly Bear". Pitchfork. September 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2009.
  4. ^ "The Doobie Brothers". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 15, 2020.
  5. ^ Odam, Matthew. "From Missouri to Motown: Michael McDonald discusses his life in music". Statesman. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  6. ^ "Michael McDonald – Missouri Legends". Retrieved September 12, 2020.
  7. ^ "Michael McDonald". Call and Post. May 15, 1976. p. 8A. ProQuest 184526216. In 1970 he was discovered while performing in an Illinois night spot by a record producer, who put him under contract and flew him to L.A. There, he recorded an album of his songs for RCA Records. It was never released. Nor was a subsequent album recorded for Bell Records.
  8. ^ a b Flans, Robyn (September 2, 2016). "Michael McDonald takes Westlake stage; Five-time Grammy winner to perform at Blue Sun fest". Ventura County Star. p. 53. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  9. ^ Sutherland, Sam (January 1981). "Michael McDonald". Musician. p. 50. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  10. ^ "New Radio Action and Billboard Pick Singles: Pop". Billboard. May 20, 1972. p. 58. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  11. ^ "Katy Lied – Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  12. ^ "Royal Scam – Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  13. ^ "Aja – Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  14. ^ "Citizen Steel Dan – Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  15. ^ "Gaucho – Credits". AllMusic.com. Retrieved June 3, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Steely Dan website: Tour '06". Archived from the original on June 17, 2008. Retrieved August 16, 2008.
  17. ^ "Michael McDonald: Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  18. ^ "World Gone Crazy Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved September 30, 2010.
  19. ^ Giles, Jeff (February 12, 2015). "Top 15 Michael McDonald Songs". Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  20. ^ "– Grammy winners". Grammy.com. February 8, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  21. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (August 17, 1986). "Pop Eye". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 14, 2017.
  22. ^ Reichardt, Nancy M (August 23, 1986). "What Happened Last Week On Your Favorite Soaps". Chicago Tribune. The Young and the Restless: Lauren, Traci, Danny and guest Michael McDonald gave a successful concert to benefit unwed teenage mothers.
  23. ^ McKeough, Kevin (September 12, 2010). "Fagan, McDonald and Scaggs roast a collection of rock and soul chestnuts". Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  24. ^ The Warren Brothers (1998). Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World (CD insert). BNA Records. 67678.
  25. ^ "Motown Two – Michael McDonald". AllMusic.
  26. ^ St. Louis Walk of Fame – Michael McDonald
  27. ^ "Independent Music Awards – 6th Annual Judges". Archived from the original on October 5, 2009.
  28. ^ "X - Fourplay - Songs, Reviews, Credits - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  29. ^ "Michael McDonald interview by Pete Lewis, Blues & Soul, April 2008". Bluesandsoul.com. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  30. ^ "Jon Bon Jovi, Queen Latifah go gospel for "Day"". Reuters. March 27, 2009.
  31. ^ "Michael McDonald Sings on New Grizzly Bear Single". Pitchfork. August 31, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  32. ^ "Santa Barbara Education Foundation". Sbefoundation.org. Retrieved April 12, 2010.[permanent dead link]
  33. ^ "'30 Rock' 'Kidney Now!' Song Inspires 'We Are The World' Nostalgia". MTV. May 15, 2009. Archived from the original on October 29, 2009. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  34. ^ "Michael McDonald in Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - TCU v Boise State". Zimbio.
  35. ^ "'American Idol' Crowns A Winner: The Live Blog". MTV News. Archived from the original on December 24, 2015.
  36. ^ Bobby Allyn (July 15, 2013). "Singer Michael McDonald reaches online music deal". USA Today. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  37. ^ "Tour Page". Archived from the original on March 27, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  38. ^ "Listen to "Show You the Way" [ft. Michael McDonald & Kenny Loggins] by Thundercat". Pitchfork.com.
  39. ^ "Thundercat Performs 'Show You The Way' with With Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald on 'Tonight Show': Watch". Billboard.com. June 6, 2017. Archived from the original on September 17, 2021.
  40. ^ "Toad the Wet Sprocket Are One Again, 'Starting Now'". American Songwriter. September 14, 2021. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  41. ^ "PBS Bio". PBS. Archived from the original on January 9, 2011. Retrieved October 13, 2013.
  42. ^ "Berklee to Present Honorary Doctorate of Music Degrees". JazzTimes.com. Retrieved September 16, 2017.