Michael McDonald's distinctive voice is woven right into the fabric of popular culture. You don't need to hear his name to know it's him singing in any one of his many different musical incarnations. McDonald contributed incredible harmonies to Steely Dan in the mid-'70s, and totally changed the sound of the Doobie Brothers in the late '70s and early '80s with songs like "What a Fool Believes" and "Takin' It To The Streets." His 1982 debut as a solo artist gave us the memorable hit "I Keep Forgetting," and the following year he duetted with James Ingram on the Grammy-winning R&B single "Yah-Mo Be There."
McDonald's sound and smooth style are so recognizable, he's sometimes the subject of what you might call "loving tributes." McDonald shares how he (and his kids) feel about having impressions done of his voice on late-night television, and being parodied in a web series about yacht rock.
McDonald is having a bit of a renaissance right now – he's recently collaborated with contemporary cool kids like Thundercat and Grizzly Bear, and has a new solo album out called Wide Open. It's his first album of original material since 2000 (he did a few cover records in between). Wide Open gets pretty personal, and so did our conversation. McDonald talks about the reality of being a musician in his sixties and what he calls his "first big hurt" (and no, it's not a romantic one).