A superior distinguished vocal ability has defined the career of Michael McDonald. However, the term vocal ability is far too limiting to express the art of Michael McDonald. Hands down, there has never been another singer from the Classic Rock Era that has sounded like Michael McDonald. His pitch, resonance and soulfulness is so mesmerizing it’s indescribable in words. Steely Dan’s Donald Fagan once said that when he heard Michael McDonald singing backup on a Steely Dan song, he wondered what he was doing singing lead vocals instead of McDonald.
As a songwriter, he has written material that wraps around his voice perfectly delivering spirited songs of substance. Hs solo albums are full of great Michael McDonald songs that have pleased fans of the Doobie Brothers’ Michael McDonald era. The many duets he has performed have been extraordinary because only the best singers in the business would dare share a microphone with the legendary voice of Michael McDonald.
It’s always tough to compose a top 10 list of songs by an artist like Michael McDonald. There are so many great ones that will be missing from this list. However, these lists are designed for two reasons. One is to serve as an introduction to an artist’s material to those who may be unfamiliar with the artist’s work. The other is too have some fun with all the old time fans who will argue with us over our choices. That’s what being a fan is all about!
# 10 – Sweet Freedom
We open our top 10 Michael McDonald songs lists with a soundtrack song. The great track “Sweet Freedom,” was released on the soundtrack to the motion picture Running Scared. The film starred the late Gregory Hines and comedian Billy Crystal. The film and soundtrack were released in 1986. The song “Sweet Freedom,” would become one of Michael McDonald’s biggest solo hits peaking at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
# 9 – All I Need
Michael McDonald’s song “All I Need,” was the opening track from his Blue Obsession album. The album was released in 2000. The song “All I Need,” was written by Tommy Simms and Michael McDonald. Tommy Simms played bass in the Bruce Springsteen band that replaced the original E Street band during Springsteen’s Human Touch tour in 1992. Simms also won a Grammy Award for the song “Change The World,” that he wrote for Eric Clapton in 1997. His pairing with Michael McDonald on the “All I Need,” track brought in a modern sound to the recording that was different from McDonald’s previous solo albums.
# 8 – Matters Of The Heart
Continuing with our top 10 Michael McDonald songs list we turn to the beautiful Michael McDonald ballad “Matters Of The Heart.” The song was released on the album Blink of an Eye. The album was released in 1993. Country music star and the newest member of The Eagles, Vince Gill sang backing vocals on this haunting track. The song “Matters Of The Heart.” was written by Michael McDonald.
# 7 -I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Yes we all know Michael McDonald did not write this one. The classic Motown song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong was released on Michael McDonald’s Motown album. During the 2000s Michael McDonald took a break from releasing original albums and decided to go the Rod Stewart route in releasing a few albums of cover songs. While Rod Stewart focused on standards, McDonald focused on the sounds of Motown. It made perfect sense for McDonald who was viewed as one of the most soulful singers of all time, to explore one of the most soulful catalogs of music.
Michael McDonald released two albums of Motown music. The first album entitled Motown was released in 2003. Michael McDonald followed up that album a year later in 2004 with the record Motown Two. Michael McDonald spent a great deal of time on the road promoting those two records. In 2008, Michael McDonald would release another album of soul covers outside of the Motown catalog entitled Soul Speak.
# 6 – On My Own
The pairing of Patti LaBelle, Michael McDonald and Burt Bacharach almost seemed like a dream come true to fans of all three artists. When two of the greatest singers of all time are paired with one the greatest songwriters of all time, one would expect great results. That’s exactly what happened. The result was a song entitled “On My Own,” and it went straight to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
# 5 – Yah Mo B There
Oh man do we love this one. Like we said in the intro, it takes a pretty strong singer to match up with Michael McDonald in a duet. The pairing of James Ingram and Michael McDonald was perfect. It’s amazing how they both sound so similar. The soul meter blew up on this one!
“Yah Mo B There,” was written by Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Rod Temperton and Quincy Jones. It was first released on the James Ingram album ‘It’s Your Night in 1983. Michael McDonald would release it on his Sweet Freedom – The Best of Michael McDonald in 1986. “Yah Mo B There” won a Grammy Award in 1985 for best R&B Performance by a Duo.
# 4 – Hail Mary
It may sound hard to believe, but Michael McDonald went eighteen straight years without releasing an album of new material. We won’t get into the reasons why, but the period was between the release of 2000’s Blue Obsession and 2017’s Wide Open. It was good to have Michael Mcdonald back releasing new material. His latest album is represented on this top 10 Michael McDonald songs list with the album’s opening track “Hail Mary.” This one is a beauty!
# 3 – Any Foolish Thing
The groove on this one is so addicting. Everything one loves about Michael McDonald is found on this classic track. McDonald’s vocal on this one is beyond the stars. The song “Any Foolish Thing,” was released on the No Looking Back album. The album was released in 1985.
# 2 – Tear It Up
As we get closer to the the number one spot on our top 10 Michael McDonald songs list the grooves keep swinging harder and the vocals are even more to die for. The great track “Tear It Up,” was released on the Take It To Heart album. The album was released in 1990. It was Michael McDonald’s third solo album.
# 1 – I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)
It would be tough to end our top 10 Michael McDonald songs list at number one with any other songs but his classic big time solo hit “I Keep Forgettin” The song was released on his debut solo album entitled If That’s What It Takes. The album was released in 1982. Three members of the band Toto performed on the track. The song was a top 10 hit for Michael McDonald peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100.