Listen to the Music: former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald is coming to the Vilar Performing Arts Center
Special to the Daily
As Michael McDonald gets set to tour this summer behind “Wide Open,” his first album of new original material in 17 years, he has gotten a boost of exposure through what might seem like unlikely collaborations with younger and decidedly hip artists.
Along with longtime friend Kenny Loggins, McDonald, 67, co-wrote the new song “Show You the Way” with funk and R&B bassist Thundercat. McDonald joined Thundercat on stage at the 2017 Coachella Music Festival outside of Los Angeles to perform the song, gaining a ton of media coverage in the process.
That performance followed an appearance in March of that year at Florida’s Okeechobee Music Festival alongside Solange Knowles singing McDonald’s 1978 smash hit with The Doobie Brothers, “What A Fool Believes.” Then there was McDonald’s guest vocal turn on the studio version of the indie rock band Grizzly Bear’s song “While You Wait for the Others.”
It’s enough to make one wonder if this is all part of some calculated campaign to make McDonald (who has often been humorously called one of the founding fathers of the yacht rock movement for his soulful, soft rock balladry of the 1970s and ’80s) cool for today’s young audiences.
McDonald, however, said nothing could be further from the truth. His recent collaborations were events of opportunity that pretty much fell into his lap.
The co-write on “Show You the Way” happened after Loggins had approached the genre-jumping Thundercat — the stage name for Steve Bruner — after he heard about an interview where Bruner expressed his admiration for Loggins and McDonald. That grew into an invitation from Bruner to try collaborating on a song.
For Knowles, having McDonald join her at Okeechobee fulfilled a longtime dream of hers to sing “What A Fool Believes” with the artist who made the song famous.
“I don’t know how long any of this will last,” McDonald said. “My experience in the music business is everything comes in waves. It’s anybody’s guess what that will be five years from now.”
McDonald certainly knows about ups and downs in a career.
He first enjoyed major popularity in the late 1970s as a member of The Doobie Brothers, singing some of the band’s most popular songs, including “Takin’ It To The Streets,” “What A Fool Believes” and “Minute By Minute.”
The Doobie Brothers broke up in 1982, and McDonald moved onto a solo career that saw considerable early success before his fortunes faded during the 1990s.
After some Motown cover albums in the 2000s, McDonald returned with 2017’s “Wide Open.” The album fits comfortably in his soul-R&B-pop wheelhouse. He enjoys adding new material from “Wide Open” to his live shows.
“There’s a certain thing about playing new stuff live, those little changes that happen and where you put them in the show kind of changes,” McDonald said. “So we’re going to try to play the stuff for the audiences, and hopefully it will be something that’s intriguing for the audience, seeing that we haven’t had much new stuff for a long time.”
McDonald will play at the Vilar Performing Arts Center in Beaver Creek today. The show starts at 8 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.vilarpac.org or call 970-845-8497.
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