Five For Friday: Michael McDonald (Yacht Rock)

Some of you will be happy to know that this will be the last Yacht Rock post for a while. I haven’t decided what will replace it yet (and I’m open to suggestions), but I think five months is plenty of time for this. So today, we’re going to talk about the Godfather of Yacht Rock, Michael McDonald.

The first a lot of us heard of Michael was when he joined Steely Dan in 1974, providing lead and background vocals on the albums Katy Lied (1975), The Royal Scam (1975), and Aja (1977), also playing keyboards on some tracks. In 1976, he was recruited by The Doobie Brothers, at the suggestion of former Steely Dan guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, when Tom Johnston fell ill. Originally he was just going to stand in for Johnston, but he was such a good fit that they asked him to stay when Johnston returned. (I always felt that his voice and keyboard playing was such a strong influence that it was as though they had morphed into Steely Dan.) At the same time, he also worked as a backup singer, keyboard player, and songwriter on projects by Christopher Cross, Bonnie Raitt, Keny Loggins, and Toto, among other acts.

After the Doobies split up in the early ’80’s, McDonald started his solo career, releasing If That’s What It Takes in 1982. The album contained such classics as "I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)" and "I Gotta Try" with Kenny Loggins.

  1. "I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)": Written by McDonald and Ed Sanford. Its similarity to "I Keep Forgettin’" by Lieber and Stoller resulted in them getting writing credits as well. It reached #4 on the Hot 100 and the Cash Box Hot Singles chart, #5 in Canada, #7 on the R&B chart, and #8 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1982-83.
  2. "Sweet Freedom": Recorded for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Running Scared which starred Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. It reached #7 on the Hot 100, his last single to reach the Top Ten, #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart, #8 on the Hot Dance Club Play chart, #12 in the UK and #25 in Canada.
  3. "Take It To Heart": Title track from his 1990 album, it reached #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart that year.
  4. "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough": Michael recorded several albums of Motown covers, Motown (2003). Motown Two (2004), and Soul Speak (2008). "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" is from the first album; it was released as a single in 2004 and reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  5. "Yah Mo B There" (with James Ingram): First appeared on Ingram’s 1983 album It’s Your Night. It was released as a single late that year, and reached #19 on the Hot 100, #5 on the R&B chart, and #44 in the UK. A remix by Jellybean Benitez the following year reached #12 in the UK. Ingram and McDonald earned the 1985 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
  6. "On My Own" (with Patti Labelle): Written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, this appeared on Patti’s 1986 album Winner In You. The single, released that year, was a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 100, R&B and Adult Contemporary charts, #2 in the UK, #1 in Canada and The Netherlands. It was the biggest hit for both performers.

And that’s Five For Friday for September 25, 2020.

12 thoughts on “Five For Friday: Michael McDonald (Yacht Rock)

  1. Would love to see you do something like “one guy, multiple acts.” Like George Harrison with the Beatles, solo, and The Traveling Wilburys. Or Eric Clapton with Cream, solo, and The Yardbirds. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

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