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What a Doob believes: How the Doobie Brothers survived '50-ish' years to finally get their due

Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Kenny Loggins, who'd known the Doobie Brothers since they opened for Loggins & Messina in the early '70s, recalls picking up on "the tension" in the group at that time. "Tommy and Michael, their styles were just so different. But Michael seemed like a breath of fresh air for the Doobies. Had they only had the Tommy Johnston era — and I love Tommy — they might not have lasted as long as they did. With Michael, they rode the tide of change in pop music."

For the band's next LP, 1978's yacht-rock touchstone "Minute by Minute," McDonald and Loggins co-wrote the silky and syncopated "What a Fool Believes," which went on to hit No. 1 and won Grammy Awards for record of the year and song of the year. "And we were up against 'After the Love Has Gone,'" Loggins noted with pride, referring to the lush R&B ballad by Earth Wind & Fire. Over the years, "Fool" has been covered by Aretha Franklin, George Michael — even Kanye West's Sunday Service choir, which transformed the song into a gospel devotional.

"Wasn't it used recently on — whatever the hell it is — 'Euphoria'?" Johnston asked his bandmates, and indeed the HBO teensploitation drama licensed the song for a scene in an episode from Season 2.

In spite of "Fool's" commercial gains, the Doobies lasted only one more album before breaking up in 1982. They got back together sporadically over the next decade for charity gigs; Johnston and Simmons later organized a more formal reunion (minus McDonald, who'd started a successful solo career) and have been touring steadily ever since. Still, playing with McDonald again, Johnston said, "lifts it up a little bit — makes it more special."

It's also, not unlike that "Euphoria" sync, a good way to "keep the band's brand alive," as Karmi put it, in an age when record sales have all but vanished and a stream on Spotify pays a fraction of a cent. Asked whether they keep up with modern music, Johnston said, "I'm told by people that work in it that it's disposable. They're not songs you're gonna hear 15 or 20 years down the line."

"I disagree," Simmons said. "I think there are songs as meaningful to young people's lives as Steely Dan or Jefferson Airplane was to people our age. There's a whole generation that's gonna remember Snoop Dogg's stuff forever.

"I mean, I can't name one record of his," he added. "But I appreciate who he is."

 

As for their upcoming residency, nobody in the Doobie Brothers would describe himself as a huge Vegas fan. But after two years mostly spent sitting around — "We're now calling it the 50-ish anniversary," McFee said — they're just happy to be performing again.

"When the pandemic started, I remember thinking I was gonna do all the things I never had time to do," McDonald said. "Then I started watching HGTV and eating cookies."

All of the Doobies are married and have grown children they thanked by name in their Rock Hall acceptance speeches. Do they expect their kids to come out and see the band on tour?

"Eh," Simmons answered noncommittally. "They liked us more when they were younger."

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©2022 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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