Monday, August 31, 2009

What a Fool Believes

Song: What a Fool Believes
Artist: Doobie Brothers
Album: Minute by Minute

30 Rock had been doing some serious Michael McDonald jokes that were cracking me up. But if I'm honest, I'd surely admit that this song, if found on some Lite FM Adult Contemporary Radio, would be sung along to. And his voice? It really is something else. The hipsters may disagree, but this one belongs in every collection.

"What a Fool Believes" is a song written by Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins, and recorded by The Doobie Brothers for their 1978 album Minute by Minute (with McDonald singing lead vocals). The single reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 14, 1979, remaining in that position for one week. The song received Grammy Awards in 1980 for both Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

"What a Fool Believes" was one of the few non-disco No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1979.

Michael Jackson claimed to have contributed at least one backing track to the original recording, but was not credited for having done so.


The song tells the story of a meeting between a man and a woman who had dated some time ago. The man is the titular "fool" who discovers, but is unable to accept, that the woman meant far more to him than he did to her. Although he clings fondly to the memories of their previous time together and yearns to restore their bond as he remembers it, it is clear that in actuality, their relationship was never particularly special to her. Even as she attempts, with a polite apology, to end his fantasy, he continues to hold fast the belief that some day they may be reunited as a couple.

Other versions by Loggins and McDonald

Loggins released a version of the song (five months prior to The Doobie Brothers) on his 1978 albumNightwatch, and a live version on his 1980 album Kenny Loggins Alive.

There is a Loggins/McDonald live duet on Loggins' 1993 album Outside: From the Redwoods.

Warner Brothers also released a 12" single disco version by The Doobie Brothers (backed with "Don't Stop to Watch the Wheels"). Mixed by disco producer Jim Burgess, at 5:31 the song is considerably longer than 3:41 versions on the 7" single and the Minute by Minute LP. The 12" version also has a more pronounced bass-driven drumbeat.

Live versions of the song often feature a guitar bridge after the second verse.

Cover versions

Numerous cover versions of the song have been recorded, including:

While not a cover version, the 1980 hit "Steal Away" by Robbie Dupree is built around a keyboard riff which is notably similar to that of the Doobie Brothers hit.

Appearances in other media

  • A fictional account of the creation of this song was featured in the first episode (June 2005) of Yacht Rock, an Internet series featuring characters of Michael McDonald and the Doobies. In the parody, Kenny Loggins inspires McDonald to write the song after Doobie guitarist Jeff "Skunk" Baxterthreatens to kick McDonald out of the band unless he writes a hit song for them.
  • The song was used in "The Monkey Suit", the 21st episode of the 17th season (14 May 2006) of the The Simpsons TV show. It was used as background music for an animatronic representation of biblical creation theory.
  • The song was used in one of the Stella shorts.
  • The song was featured on the original movie soundtrack of Frankie and Johnny.
  • A cover of the song was featured on an episode of the television show 30 Rock entitled "St. Valentine's Day".
  • The song featured in Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear review of the BMW M5.
  • A cover of Petula Clark's "Downtown" on the Canadian sketch comedy series SCTV includes a variation of the beginning of "What a Fool Believes". A Michael McDonald impersonator sings backup in the song.
  • Another Michael McDonald lookalike sings the song's melody with different words in the Late Night with Conan O'Brien sketch "The Camp Michael McDonald Channel". The McDonald impersonator also sings different words to the tune of "Takin' It to the Streets" and McDonald's solo hit "Sweet Freedom".

What a Fool Believes (live)
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