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Michael McDonald On World Cafe

Michael McDonald
Timothy White
Courtesy of the artist
Michael McDonald

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).

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Talia Schlanger hosts World Cafe, which is distributed by NPR and produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. She got her start in broadcasting at the CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster. She hosted CBC Radio 2 Weekend Mornings on radio and was the on-camera host for two seasons of the television series CBC Music: Backstage, as well as several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor. Schlanger also guest hosted various flagship shows on CBC Radio One, including As It Happens, Day 6 and Because News. Schlanger also won a Canadian Screen Award as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip.