With his husky, soulful baritone
, Michael McDonald
became one of the most distinctive and popular vocalists to emerge from the laid-back California pop
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. He initially essayed his signature style with The Doobie Brothers
, ushering in the group's most popular period with hits like "What a Fool Believes" and "Taking It to the Streets." McDonald disbanded the group in 1982
to pursue a solo career, which was initially quite successful, but by the end of the decade his popularity had faded away, since he was reluctant to work regularly and hesitant to update his sound to suit shifting popular tastes.
After singing backup on several Steely Dan albums in the mid-'70s, Michael McDonald joined the Doobie Brothers in 1977. He was largely responsible for moving the group away from boogie rock and toward polished, jazzy blue-eyed soul. Prior to the Doobies' farewell tour in 1982, he sang harmony on several hit singles, including tracks by Donna Summer, Toto, Kenny Loggins, and Christopher Cross. As it turned out, McDonald's solo work was a cross between the Doobie Brothers' white-bread soul and Cross' adult contemporary ballads.