Michael McDonald, a soulful musician, reflects in his new autobiography, “What a Fool Believes.”

Michael McDonald, a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy winner, had always been hesitant to share his story with the public. He believed that he didn’t have a compelling narrative to offer.

Michael McDonald, a renowned artist, has had an impressive career as a member of Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers. Despite his success, he humbly considers himself a small player in the rich tapestry of rock history. McDonald’s versatility as a solo artist is evident through his chart-topping hits like “On My Own” and “Sweet Freedom.”

During the interview, McDonald expressed his initial fear that there might not be much of a story to tell. He humbly acknowledged that his own experiences were limited and that he often found fulfillment in living vicariously through the accomplishments of others.

Prompted by his friend, actor and comedian Paul Reiser, McDonald has decided to share his personal journey in the honest and modest memoir titled “What a Fool Believes,” which will be released on May 21.

This is the story of an extraordinary singer-songwriter who experienced both great successes and devastating failures. Throughout his journey, he faced the challenges of alcoholism and self-doubt, as well as the ups and downs of fame, criticism, and eventual resurgence.

“We both realized that this story is essentially a reflection of life’s randomness. Despite our best efforts to plan and chart our course, we ultimately need to be open to unexpected changes and go with the flow,” he expressed.

In a separate interview, Reiser explained that the book emerged from their conversations, with him being the one to ask numerous questions about McDonald’s life. He candidly admitted, “It’s a completely selfish endeavor. I simply wanted to indulge in reading it.”

His voice is truly awe-inspiring, and his music has captured the hearts of many. However, it seems that not much is known about him beyond that. He seems to exist on a different frequency, one that often goes unnoticed by the masses.

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In 1971, the story begins with the author waking up in county jail, feeling the effects of a hangover. At the age of 19, McDonald finds himself arrested for falling asleep in a pancake house. This incident follows a two-day binge of cocaine and Jack Daniels, making it a foreshadowing moment in his life.

The story begins with McDonald’s humble beginnings in St. Louis, Missouri, and follows his journey as he travels around the world with two iconic rock bands, despite his tendency to make questionable decisions.

In his early years, McDonald started his musical journey by playing in his first band at the age of 12. They performed at picnics and civic events, with McDonald even using a homemade guitar. He then progressed to joining the local professional band called Jerry Jay and the Sheratons, followed by touring with The Delrays.

When McDonald turned 18, RCA Records recognized his talent and provided him with $3,000, as well as flying him to Los Angeles. However, despite this promising start, his debut album was ultimately scrapped, leading to his unfortunate departure from the label. Reflecting on this experience, McDonald candidly shares, “My quickly rising star came crashing down to earth.”

A few months later, he made his way back to California, but this time he opted for a road trip instead of flying. With a more promising offer for session work, he was determined to make his return to St. Louis worth it.

His career skyrocketed when he received an invitation to provide backing vocals and play keys for Steely Dan. He brought his unique and soulful voice to life on iconic tracks from Steely Dan’s timeless albums, such as “Katy Lied,” “The Royal Scam,” “Aja,” and “Gaucho.” (Yes, you can hear him singing in the background on “Peg.”)

When Steely Dan decided to cease touring, Michael McDonald found himself joining another iconic band of the 70s, The Doobie Brothers. It was in 1975, just before the release of their fifth album, when their original lead singer, Tom Johnston, fell ill and was unable to go on tour. In a swift move, McDonald was brought in as his replacement, with the band giving him a mere 48 hours to learn and master their complete setlist.

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McDonald received an offer to join the Doobies on a permanent basis. The band offered him a salary of $1,500 per week, along with a $100 per diem. However, McDonald’s arrival caused some division within the group, as he wanted to steer their sound away from country rock and blues boogie towards a smoother and more soulful direction.

McDonald acknowledges the presence of internal conflict within their ranks and takes responsibility for their own contribution to the issue.

McDonald doesn’t hold back when it comes to revealing the less glamorous aspects of life. He openly shares experiences like dealing with crabs in his younger years and battling acid reflux as he gets older. In a candid confession, he admits to attending a rehab support group while under the influence for two consecutive days. There was even a time when he was spotted wearing a bathrobe, with a joint in his mouth, and a bowl of Lucky Charms resting on his chest.

“In the interview, he emphasizes the importance of telling the whole story when it comes to storytelling. He believes that we all reach our destinations despite our shortcomings and believes that this is the essence of any story.”

Reading the book will provide musicians with valuable lessons in touring etiquette and songwriting. They will gain insights into specific details such as chromatically descending II-V passing chord progressions.

Fans will also hear stories about playing basketball with James Taylor and receive some valuable advice about opening for Cher: “In general, if you ever come across a guy dressed up in a Cher wig and gown, standing on a chair and flipping you off, it’s probably a sign that it’s time to make your exit.”

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McDonald’s vocal talents extend beyond his solo albums, as he has also collaborated with renowned artists such as Elton John, Luther Vandross, Kenny Loggins, and Christopher Cross. You may recognize McDonald’s voice on Cross’ hit song “Ride Like the Wind,” where he belts out the memorable line “Such a long way to go.” His exceptional abilities were recognized with a Grammy nomination for his performance on “Sweet Freedom” from the film “Running Scared.” Additionally, McDonald joined forces with James Ingram on the uplifting track “Yah Mo B There” and teamed up with Patti LaBelle for the powerful duet “On My Own.”

McDonald eventually became the subject of ridicule due to his frequent appearances on other artists’ tracks. In his own words, he admits, “No one wanted to hear another Michael McDonald background vocal – I had relied on that technique maybe a bit too much, somewhere between 50 and a thousand times.”

In the 2000s, McDonald experienced a redemption of sorts as he released a series of highly acclaimed albums featuring Motown covers. Collaborating with artists like Solange Knowles and Grizzly Bear, he showcased his talent at the Coachella festival in 2017 alongside renowned jazz-funk bassist Thundercat.

At the age of 72, McDonald reflects on how writing the book provided him with an opportunity to reflect on his past and release any lingering resentments towards those he once believed obstructed his path. He recognizes that he may owe those individuals more than he has reason to hold onto grudges.

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