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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Michael McDonald: The Blue-eyed Soulman

Living a musician’s life is not the first choice many parents wish for their children’s future.
Luckily, the mother and father of 5-time Grammy award winning singer and songwriter Michael McDonald approved of two diverse choices.

“Either singer or priest either would have made my family happy,” related McDonald who will appear this Saturday night at the final concert of the Lake Tahoe Music Festival.
With that globally recognizable husky baritone, that has thrilled audiences for six decades the 58 year old got an early start. A Saint Louis native he tagged along with his father as the elder McDonald sang at area clubs and pubs.

“He spent more time in a bar than any alcoholic and never drank,” he remembered.Doobie Brothers.
His addition brought a new sound to the Doobies with songs like Taking it to the Streets, and the #1 Billboard hit and the Grammy -winning What a Fool Believes. He recalls his years of xxx with the band as a time where band members’ emotions could be high and explosive, but the commitment to the audience’s enjoyment also overcame any offstage turmoil. Past Doobie band members still count among his many friends.
While watching the back of his father’s head rhythmically bob during his act the desire to perform overwhelmed the then four-year old Michael. With a soft drink in one hand, he used the other to tug his father’s jacket and state his intention to sing too.

As a popular ballad “Love is a Many Splendored Thing” coming from a small boy brought resounding cheers from the audience it began a monumental career for “the blue-eyed soul man.”
During the mid 60’s he spent his teenage years in a variety of local bands like Mike and the Mechanics and Jerry and the Sheratons.

The early 70s found him as a keyboardist in Los Angles scrambling between studio gigs as a session musician and a sideman with a variety of bands. He preferred the latter, and soon an opportunity came to audition for the future iconic band, Steely Dan that led to his acclaimed stint with the

While McDonald has played, sung or written hits for musical greats ranging from Aretha Franklin to Ray Charles and Carly Simon, he remains humble at his craft. In an age where large entourages often accompany celebrities, he often carries his own equipment to gigs.
He joked, “I often wish I had taken up the flute.”

Now with his own 22-year-old son Dylan starting to carve out his own musical career, McDonald expressed his concerns on their common industry. He sees the current trend of categorizing musicians into singular genres such as rock or jazz by record labels and radio stations as limiting at best.

“There is much to learn from playing others’ music.”
His concern continues that many young acts are too insulated and isolated.  The prevailing narcissistic attitude can stall a career before it has time to flourish fully he believes.

“I am grateful for the times I grew up in,” says the singer who played Lake Tahoe with Edgar Winters and Brian May during his first solo tour in the 80’s.  “The music was innocent.”

From the soulful sounds of Motown to the soft rock of the 1970’s he helped to both preserve and create Michael McDonald will provide his special sense of purity to the music.

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