Friday, September 19, 2008

What A Fool Believes, Doobie Brothers (1978-9)

What a fool believes he sees / no wise man has the power to reason away / What seems to be / is always better than nothing

I'm teetering perilously close to the brink of what I would consider the end of the baby boomer music years with this, but I heard What A Fool Believes today for the first time in a long time and it was so laden with memories that I can't resist adding it to the Estivator catalog. (Plus there's a part of me that thinks it's quite relevant to our current political scene as well.)

The characterization by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins of the mindset involved in unrequited love packs such a punch; when this song was released in 1978 on the Minute By Minute album (and the following year as a single, for which McDonald and Loggins were honored with the Song of the Year Grammy in 1980), I was the fool believing, and it was impossible to look in the mirror of this song and not see myself. Yet it was also somehow tremendously comforting to be enveloped in the universal sensibilities that What A Fool Believes captured so perfectly.

Michael McDonald, late of Steely Dan, was recruited for the band when Doobies co-founder Tom Johnston left due to ill health. Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, another Dan veteran who had been absorbed into the Doobies when Donald Fagen and Walter Becker decided to retire into session musicianship, suggested his former fellow bandmate as a fill-in. McDonald's keyboards and unearthly tenor took the Doobies into another stratosphere, from the California hippie band that it had been to a true pop sensation with a kick-ass rhythm section.

According to veteran rock critic Dave Marsh, in the The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, McDonald had written a good bit of the song but was stalling on the bridge. Loggins, whom McDonald did not know but who had recently split from his partner Jim Messina, was suggested as a possible collaborator by Doobie Brother Tiran Porter (not sure where the thought process came from here, but OK), and the rest is history. As Marsh wrote, "For once, the Grammys spent its accolades where they were deserved. Carefully crafted, gorgeously sung, beautifully arranged and pristinely recorded, What A Fool Believes holds up as one of the finest examples of seventies L.A. pop."

No argument, Dave!


cornbread hell said...

having audio issues w/ my computer.
i look forward to getting it fixed to listen to this song.

KO said...

Ask me to do my Michael McDonald impression sometime. I not only have this album I burned his and the Log's greatest hits album. I also recommend all Yacht Rock episodes on Youtube.
I hope it doesn't ruin it for you. I also love the line in Romancing the Stone- "Dammit man, the Doobie Brothers broke up! S%$t! When did that happen?"