Tuesday, August 03, 2021

MEET… The Doobie Brothers

It’s very difficult to sum up the sound of The Doobie Brothers, mainly because over the 5 decades that they’ve been active, at least 28 musicians have played as a "Doobie Brother", with only one member, Peter Simmons appearing on all of their albums (and I thought the Sugababes were bad). 

As a result of the frequent changes of its members, songwriters and front-men, the sound of The Doobie Brothers has been a fluid being, guided and shaped by whoever was writing the songs at the time. 

Therefore, the history of the band can be roughly divided into three eras. From 1970 to 1978, the sound of the Doobies was mainly that of rock and roll, with elements of folk and a hint of R&B. This was all thanks to front man, Tom Johnston. We’ve got Johnston to thank for the likes of ‘Listen to the Music’‘Long Train Runnin’’ and ‘China Grove’. However, in 1977, he left the group due to health issues as he battled with addiction. He was replaced by former Steely Dan member, Michael McDonald. McDonald then became the focal point of the band and wrote six songs on the 1978 album, Minute by Minute including the number one hit, ‘What A Fool Believes’.  McDonald brought a more soulful tone to their music and Minute by Minute would earn them four Grammy awards. 

Without knowing it at the time, McDonald was one of the major pioneers of an entirely new music genre which would later be referred to as ‘yacht rock’. Indeed, J.D. Ryznar and friends (who first coined the term back in 2005) even wrote a list of requirements for a song to be considered ‘yacht rock’, with one of those being; “must contain an upbeat rhythm called a ‘Doobie Bounce’”. This more soulful sound continued until the band broke up in 1982, but have no fear, only 5 years later they reformed with Johnston taking centre stage once again. McDonald dipped in and out of the band occasionally, and in 2019 returned to the band full-time for their upcoming 50th anniversary tour. Still with me? Phew. 

Despite all of the changes across the years, a few things have remained the same within The Doobie Brothers. Firstly, whether it was Johnston or McDonald at the helm, they released some truly brilliant, feel good music. Writing this article has given me the chance to revisit their discography and remind myself just how many great songs have been written by a Doobie Brother. Varied, sophisticated and catchy, their tunes have certainly stood the test of time. It’s no shock to me that they’ve sold more than 40 million albums worldwide.

It took a long time for The Doobie Brothers to receive the recognition they deserve. Indeed, despite forming the band way back in 1970 (in San Jose, California), it was only last year that they were finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More recently, In order to celebrate their 50th Anniversary in style, The Doobies were given residency at the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas way back in February last year, however this was later cancelled mid shows as Johnston was hit with a serious illness that he thinks may have been Covid-19. Like it has with many, the pandemic caused them to postpone their tour until the summer of this year, so fans will have to wait even longer to see Johnston, McDonald, Simmons and McFee reunited on stage. 

Fingers crossed this goes ahead for them and their fans as their cheerful, foot-tapping tunes are perhaps just we all need right now.

 Eleanor Holloway-Pratt 


Image: tumblr_p73m75rYsr1tsxh9ko1_1280.jpg (899×708) (wp.com)

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