When Tom Johnston left the band in 1975 due to illness, the Doobie Brothers hired Michael McDonald as a replacement on the road. Michael McDonald was eventually invited to work on the band’s new studio album. The album entitled Takin’ It To The Streets. delivered a very updated sound. Many people say the band’s sound changed dramatically. However, the band’s core instrumentation of bass, guitar and drums still sounded the same. Patrick Simmons’ playing and singing was still also a dominant force. It was the addition of Michael McDonaldd’s vocals, keyboard playing and songwriting that gave the band a more soulful sound. One can also not neglect the impact Jeff Skunk Baxter had on the band from joining them in 1974. Both Jeff Skunk Baxter and Michael McDonald’s work and time spent recording with Steely Dan served the two well. Steely Dan was the most meticulous band to ever record in the studio. It’s easy to believe that Michael McDonald and Baxter learned some great stuff working with Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.
When Takin’ It To The Streets was released in 1976, many people loved the band’s updated sound. Of course, some fans turned away, especially during the band’s incredible commercial success with Michael McDonald. The band recorded four albums with Michael McDonald including Taking It To The Streets in 1976, Living on the Fault Line in 1977, Minute by Minute in 1978 and One Step Closer in 1980. The One Step Closer album would be the last Doobie Brothers record for almost ten years until the release of Cycles in 1989. By that time, Michael McDonald was enjoying a successful solo career and did not take part in the revival of the Doobie Brothers. Over the years, the band has recorded and toured with former members returning at different time periods. After the release of Cycles in 1989. The band has released four more albums including Brotherhood in 1991, Sibling Rivalry in 2000. World Gone Crazy in 2010 and Southbound in 2014. Former founding members Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons are still currently playing with the band. In 2018, the Doobie Brothers are out on the road with Steely Dan.
Our Top 10 Doobie Brothers songs list attempts to pick 10 of what we believe are the best songs the Doobie Brothers ever released. It’s simply our subjective list, but we feel it will serve as a great starting ground for anyone not familiar with the music of the great band The Doobie Brothers.
# 10 – The Doctor
We start out our Top 10 Doobie Brothers songs list with the great single “The Doctor.” The song was the opening track on their comeback album in 1989 entitled Cycles. For the band, it was a return to their early 1970’s pre-Michael McDonald sound. Michael McDonald did not appear on the album. However, he did contribute as a songwriter on the track “Tonight I’m Coming Through.” Fans welcomed the return of The Doobie Brothers. The song “The Doctor,” became a top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit. The song also peaked at number one on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Charts.
# 9 – For Someone Special
“For Someone Special,” may be one of the lesser known Doobie Brothers songs on this list. However, one listen to this track and it will become clear why we included it on this best Doobie Brothers Songs article. The song was released on the band’s 1976 album Takin’ It To The Streets. It was never released as a single. It was one of those deep tracks that rock fans loved to hear on FM radio when the format used to play album tracks. The song was issued as the second track on side two of the record. The song featured a rare lead vocal by bassist Tiran Porter.
# 8 – What A Fool Believes
If there ever was a Doobie Brothers song that defined the impact that Michael McDonald had on the band it was “What A Fool Believes.” The song was released on the band’s 1978 album Minute by Minute. The song was released as single in 1979. “What A Fool Believes,” would become the band’s biggest hit of their career. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. The album Minute By Minute earned the band four Grammy Awards.
# 7 – Jesus Is Just Alright
The great Doobie Brothers song “Jesus Is Just Alright,” was released on the band’s second album entitled Toulouse Street. The song was released as the second single from the album. The greatness of this song was overshadowed by the huge success of the album’s first single “Listen To The Music.” The song’s mid-section where the band breaks was the highlight of this amazing record.
# 6 – China Grove
By the time the band released the single “China Grove,” they had already established a very identifiable sound. “China Grove,” was the second single released from the band’s album The Captain and Me. It was another huge smash for the band as it reached the number 15 spot on the Billboard Top 100 in 1973. The band’s great guitar riffs fueled the song as they did with most of the Doobie Brothers big early 1970’s hits.
# 5 – Listen To The Music
As we close in on the number one spot on our Top 10 Dobbie Brothers songs list, it becomes more difficult to choose between the next four Doobie Brothers songs. We found it appropriate that the last four songs were split between the pre-Michael McDonald era, and the time he recorded with the band. In our number four spot is the song that put the band on the map. The great Doobie Brothers song “Listen to The Music,” was the band’s first successful single. It was the lead single released form their second album entitled Toulouse Street.
# 4 – Taking It To The Streets
“Takin’ It To The Streets,” was the title track for the band’s legendary 1976 album Takin’ It To The Streets. The song “Takin’ It To The Streets,” is the second of three songs from the Takin’ It To The Streets album to appear on our Top 10 Dobbie Brothers songs list. This was one of Michael McDonald’s greatest lead vocals with the band.
# 3 – Long Train Running
The classic Doobie Brothers song contains possibly the most iconic guitar licks of the band’s career. This was one of the 1970’s defining rock and roll moments It was the perfect balance of rock and pop that just fit perfectly on all radio formats. The song “Long Train Running,” was released on the band’s album The Captain and Me. It was the lead single released from the record. The song did extremely well for the band as it reached the number eight position on the Billboard Hot 100.
# 2 – Wheels Of Fortune
As we arrive at the number two spot on our top 10 Doobie Brothers songs list we turn once again to the band finest album entitled Takin’ It To The Streets. The production value on the Takin’ It To The Streets album was spectacular. The song that it shined the most on was the album’s opening cut “Wheels of Fortune.” The song only reached the number 87 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, but that does not take away from the song’s brilliance. From production value, to composition, to performance, “Wheels of Fortune,” stands as the artistic peak of the band’s career.
# 1 – Black Water
As we close out our top 10 Doobie Brothers songs list we turn to their 1974 album What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits. The song “Black Water,” was originally released as the B side to the album’s first single “Another Park, Another Sunday.” A song with a similar title to Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park.” “Another Park, Another Sunday,” was a successful single for the band, but there seemed to be more interest in the B side more than the A side. This was something that had been previously see with various Beatles and Elton John singles when the B sides became more famous than the A sides. Eventually, “Black Water,” was released as the album’s third single. “Black Water,” would become The Doobie Brothers first number one song as it hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1974.
Top 10 Doobie Brothers Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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