Motown mister signs, seals, delivers concert
Even at 9,000 feet, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for Michael McDonald of Doobie Brothers fame. The musician is knee-deep in a tour for his latest album, “Motown,” and the bus stops at Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center for the Arts Sunday. The music begins at 7:30 p.m.
“Motown” is a 14-track expedition through the annals of McDonald’s memories of Motown music. Some of the songs on the album represent his first musical loves, and he sings them like he owns them. People at Universal Records came up with the concept, and then went looking for an artist to record it.
“They came to the show a couple of years ago, and I just jumped at the chance,” said McDonald. “It sounded like so much fun. I’ve sung these songs over the years, they’re my favorite musicians, songwriters, artists. Obviously it was a good idea for them, and as a recording artist, it was a great idea for me.”
The first track, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” has been covered by more than 60 artists since it was written. McDonald had misgivings about getting in line to cover such a classic, but eventually decided he couldn’t make an album titled “Motown” without it. He took his inspiration from Marvin Gaye’s version.
“Motown” was produced by Simon Climie, somebody McDonald longed to work with.
“There weren’t too many projects I could bring him and have him be interested,” he explained. “And for me, I felt like the project was a success before we even released it, it was so much fun.”
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” “How Sweet It Is,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Reflections” are some of the songs that made the cut. Everybody involved in the project showed up one day with a wish list for songs to be covered. They ended up with 150 on the “master wish list,” and had to hone it down from there.
“All albums are fun,” he said. “I enjoy doing them, but there are those moments where you’re not sure where to go. We never had that on this one, we didn’t fret much about the things that weren’t working. There were just so many things to choose from.”
He’s especially fond of “Since I Lost My Baby,” which was one of the first Motown songs he ever heard in Ferguson, Mo.
“A buddy of mine, I heard his band playing at the mall there,” he said. “I was 13 or 14, they had horns and I was jealous. They were doing music I hadn’t heard yet.”
One tune was “My Girl,” and so he walked into the record store and bought that single. The B-Side was “Since I Lost My Baby.”
“So I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for it,” he said.
A little different from his touring days with the Doobie Brothers, he’s on the road with his wife and kids. This interview was delayed for a couple of minutes as he shouted to his son to “get in the shower, now.”
“We homeschooled the kids this year so they can travel a little more with me,” he said.
His son is 15, and “a pretty good little guitar player,” though McDonald doesn’t think he’ll be led into the music business. He’ll probably be an actor, he said.
For more information on the concert, visit http://www.vilarcenter.org or call 845-TIXS.
“The concert will be a little bit of everything,” said McDonald. “We’ll play some of the stuff I wrote with the Doobies, and some of the “Motown’ stuff, too. It’ll be a good show.”
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.