Michael McDonald's 10 greatest songs ever, ranked

4 August 2022, 15:58

The Doobie Brothers On Stage 1979
The Doobie Brothers On Stage 1979. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

Michael McDonald is one of the greatest singers of his generation, and helped pioneer the soul and classic rock sound of the late '70s and early '80s.

From his days with The Doobie Brothers and his successful solo career, we've picked just a handful of the best Michael McDonald songs to get your soothing playlist started.

  1. You Belong to Me (with the Doobie Brothers)

    Doobie Brothers - You Belong To Me (1982)

    This song was co-written by Michael with Carly Simon. The Doobie Brothers first released it 1977.

    A year later, Carly released it herself and have a bigger hit with it, as well as being used in various films including Desperately Seeking Susan.

  2. This Is It (with Kenny Loggins)

    Kenny Loggins & Michael McDonald-This is it.

    The ultimate beard off!

    Michael co-wrote and provided backing vocals to this Grammy-winning track.

    Loggins was struggling for lyrics at one stage, but this changed after visiting his ill father, who had undergone several surgeries for vascular problems. His perspective then changed, saying: "'I've got it,' I announced to Michael, it's not a love song. It's a life song."

  3. I Can Let Go Now

    I Can Let Go Now

    This is where Michael shows just how perfect his voice is for an emotional ballad, taken from his debut album.

    The song looks back on a doomed love affair with a sombre feeling of hope. We've all been there.

  4. Minute by Minute (with the Doobie Brothers)

    The Doobie Brothers - Minute By Minute (Official Music Video)

    This was one of the tracks that transformed The Doobie Brothers from a folk-rock band to a more lighter radio-friendly sound.

    Co-writer Michael was surprised by the song's success, after a friend had told him that the song "just doesn't have it."

  5. It Keeps You Runnin' (with the Doobie Brothers)

    The Doobie Brothers - It Keeps You Runnin' (1977)

    From their 1976 album Takin' It To The Streets, this is possibly the best Doobie song with Michael on vocals that fits into their country-rock sound.

    The same year, Carly Simon released her own version and scored a mild hit.

  6. Yah Mo B There (with James Ingram)

    James Ingram and Michael McDonald - Yah Mo B There (1983)

    Michael teamed up with James Ingram on this excellent R&B track in 1983, and it was later a hit in the UK thanks to a remixed version.

    The duet gave the pair a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals in 1985.

  7. I Keep Forgettin'

    Michael McDonald - I Keep Forgettin' (Every Time You're Near) (Official Music Video)

    This track was taken from his debut album If That's What It Takes in 1982. Its closeness to the song of the same name by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller resulted in the pair being given a songwriting credit.

    His sister Maureen provided backing vocals, while Greg Phillinganes, Steve Lukather and Jeff Porcaro of the band Toto played the clavinet, guitar and drums.

    It was later heavily sampled in the 1994 R&B track 'Regulate' by Warren G and Nate Dogg.

  8. Sweet Freedom

    Michael McDonald - Sweet Freedom (1986)

    This catchy yacht rock favourite was Michael's last US top hit, released back in 1986.

    It was used in the movie Running Scared, and its music video featured actors Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines.

  9. On My Own (with Patti Labelle)

    Patti LaBelle - On My Own (Official Music Video) ft. Michael McDonald

    Written and produced by Burt Bacharach and his former wife Carole Bayer Sager, it was first recorded by Dionne Warwick but she decided not to release it.

    A year later, Patti Labelle recorded it as a duet with Michael, and it became a huge number one hit in the US, and is easily one of the best duets of all time.

  10. What a Fool Believes (with the Doobie Brothers)

    The Doobie Brothers - What A Fool Believes (Official Music Video)

    Written by Michael and Kenny Loggins, this was one of the few non-disco hits in America in the first eight months of 1979.

    The song tells the story of a man who is reunited with an old love interest and attempts to rekindle a romantic relationship with her before discovering that one never really existed.

    Michael Jackson once claimed he contributed at least one backing track to the original recording, but was not credited for having done so. This was later denied by the band.