Michael McDonald Biography
Michael McDonald is a well-known American singer and songwriter. Also known as an eminent keyboardist and record producer, his musical journey spans over 40 years. During his career, he has worked with a number of other famous artists like Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, Kenny Loggins, Toto, Patti LaBelle and Grizzly Bear, doing duets and providing backing vocals. His unique voice was first noticed in the early 1970s when he worked in collaboration with Steely Dan as a guest vocalist. However, he is more popularly known for his partnership with the Doobie Brothers—a group whose music he changed from a boogie-rock to a combo of a more mature soul-jazz and pop. He has also enjoyed a successful solo career in which he has won multiple awards including Grammys. He has recorded several tracks for television as well. Today, McDonald has emerged as one of the most popular and distinctive vocalists to rise up from the negligent California rock/pop scene of the 1970s. With his husky yet soulful baritone, he effortlessly found the middle ground between smooth, soft rock and blue-eyed soul. And this discovery is essentially what that has led him to become a darling of the masses and a highly successful musical sensation.
- Michael McDonald was born in Ferguson, Missouri, into an Irish American Catholic family on February 12, 1952.
- He attended McCluer High School where he performed in his first band ‘Mike and the Majestics’. He also played in other local groups, including Reebtoors, Jerry Jay and the Sheratons, and the Guild.
- McDonald moved to Los Angeles in 1970 to pursue his career in music.
- Michael McDonald initially wrote and sang songs for albums of other artists. In 1974, he was hired by Steely Dan as an in-studio member. He also worked as a keyboardist and background singer for the Steely Dan albums.
- He also joined hands with the Doobie Brothers in April 1975. This band initially asked him to perform in place of their lead singer Tom Johnston who was ill at that time. However, the band members liked the work of McDonald so much that they asked him to join as a full-time member.
- He worked for the band as the lead singer and song writer and took it to great heights, producing smash hits, such as the single ‘What a Fool Believes.’ This song also brought a Grammy Award for him.
- He also collaborated with his contemporaries—Toto, Christopher Cross, Bonnie Raitt, Jack Jones, and Kenny Loggins—working as a keyboardist and session vocalist on their songs and albums.
- After the separation from the Doobie Brothers in the early 1980s, Michael McDonald continued as a solo artist and released his first album ‘If That's What it Takes’ in 1982.
- In 1983, his single done in partnership with James Ingram – ‘Yah Mo B There’ peaked at number 5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. This duet also won a prestigious Grammy Award for the duo.
- In 1986, he performed a duet with Patti LaBelle titled ‘On My Own’ which grabbed the number 1 position on Billboard Hot 100. Later that year, McDonald worked as a backing vocalist for Toto's album ‘Fahrenheit.’
- In 1987, he collaborated with the gospel music quartet ‘The Winans’ for their album titled ‘Love Has No Color’. A few years later, in 1990, he worked on his album ‘Take It to Heart’ which also featured Diane Warren as one of the songwriters.
- In 1992, he teamed with Donald Fagen and Steely Dan's Walter Becker for a touring group, the New York Rock & Soul Revue.
- In 1995, he briefly rejoined the Doobie Brothers for an expedition. Three years later, he toured for Stevie Nicks.
- Michael McDonald sang the backing vocals for the Warren Brothers' album ‘Beautiful Day in the Cold Cruel World’ in 1999. The same year, he also gave vocals for one of three tracks on Chicago XXVI: Live in Concert.
- In 2000, Michael McDonald partnered with Jeff Bridges and Chris Pelonis and founded a record label “Ramp Records”. He toured with Boz Scaggs and Donald Fagan in 2010. He has even performed with Holy Ghost, the electronic group. He has also given his contributions to the television shows ‘American Idol’ and ‘30 Rock.’
- Michael McDonald first worked as a replacement keyboard artist for the Doobie Brothers. The band was so impressed with him that it asked him to perform as the lead singer as well as song writer. He transformed the group’s music from funky rock to more of a jazzy R&B sound. He initially used his signature style for the Doobie Brothers and produced hits like ‘Taking It to the Streets’ and ‘What a Fool Believes.’
- In 1982, he released his solo album – ‘If That's What It Takes.’ The album climbed to number 6 on the US Billboard 200 and number 10 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
- In 1983, he gave another Top 20 pop hit ‘Yah Mo B There’ (Grammy Award–winning) for which he worked in collaboration with James Ingram. The single reached number 19 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
- In 1986, his single ‘On My Own’ done in partnership with Patti LaBelle shot to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and also on the US Billboard Hot Black Singles.
- Michael McDonald’s song, ‘What a Fool Believes,’ co-written with Kenny Loggins, won three Grammy Awards including “Song of the Year Award” in 1979.
- His single with James Ingram, ‘Yah Mo B There,’ won the Grammy Award for “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group” in 1984.
- In 2011, Berklee College of Music awarded him the degree of Honorary Doctorate of Music.
- Michael McDonald has been married to Amy Holland, a singer, since 1983. The couple has two children - Dylan (born in 1987) and Scarlett (born in 1991). The family moved to Santa Barbara in the 1990s.
- He has spoken out on his struggles with alcoholism and his recovery from the same.
- The singer has also performed for various recovery organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous to support the cause of rehabilitation of alcoholics.
- He performed live at the Danish Music Awards via satellite with the music group Safri Duo.
- McDonald is often mistaken for Council speaker of the Whittier City, Doobie McDonald.
- When Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle first recorded their song ‘On My Own’, both the artists didn’t actually meet. It was only after June 1986 that the artists finally met!
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