With his husky, soulful baritone, Michael McDonald became one of the most distinctive and popular vocalists to emerge from the laid-back California pop/rock scene of the late '70s. McDonald found the middle ground between blue-eyed soul and smooth soft rock, a sound that made him a star.
After singing backup on several Steely Dan albums in the mid-'70s, McDonald joined the Doobie Brothers in 1977. Prior to the Doobie Brothers farewell tour in 1982, he sang harmony on several hit singles including tracks by Donna Summer, Toto, Kenny Loggins, and Christopher Cross.
McDonald released his solo debut If That's What It Takes in 1982. The record climbed to No. 6 on the strength of the No. 4 single "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)," which also crossed over into the R&B Top 10. In 1983, he had scored another top 20 pop hit (and a Top 10 R&B hit) the James Ingram duet "Yah Mo B There," which won a Grammy®. McDonald's second solo album, No Lookin' Back, was released in 1985. The following year, "On My Own," his duet with Patti LaBelle, shot to No. 1, and "Sweet Freedom," his theme for the Billy Crystal/Gregory Hines comedy Running Scared, climbed into the Top 10.
In the 1990s, Take It to Heart was released. McDonald sang on Aretha Franklin's minor hit "Ever Changing Times," toured with Donald Fagen's New York Rock and Soul Revue, released Blink of an Eye, and "I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near)" was sampled heavily in Warren G's smash hit "Regulate." By 1996, he had returned to the Doobie Brothers, touring the oldies circuit with the reunited group. His first album of new material in three years, Blue Obsession, bowed in 2001, followed by In the Spirit: A Christmas Album.
A telephone advertisement featuring McDonald's version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," gained popularity for his release Motown. He followed it with Motown Two in 2004.
McDonald continues to record and has sung on albums by various artists from all genres, from Chaka Khan to Vince Gill. He still tours, including Christmas shows in support of his album On This Night. In 2007, he recorded Soul Speak, an album of new and original R&B classics. In 2009, he released This Christmas, his third collection of holiday songs.
McDonald made his Opry debut in 2006, performing the classic "Busted" as a tribute to the great Ray Charles.