Michael McDonald, Live in Studio 4A

Former Doobie Brother Sings Songs of His Youth on New CD

Listen: Hear an extended version of Michael McDonald's performance chat with NPR's Bob Edwards.

Michael McDonald's 'Motown'

Motown features Michael McDonald's new versions of soul classics from the label by the same name. hide caption

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It's one thing to grow up listening to — and singing along with — the records of Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye. For Michael McDonald, a performer in his own right, it's quite another to actually sing those songs on his own CD.

"You hear these lyrics forever for years and you kind of take them for granted," the five-time Grammy winner tells NPR's Bob Edwards. "Then you go up to sing them and somehow what the lyrics might really mean kind of come through your head, images of what is actually being described..."

After a stint as a backup singer for Steely Dan, McDonald joined the Doobie Brothers (where he wrote and sang "Takin' It To the Streets," "Minute By Minute," and "What a Fool Believes") before setting off on a solo career. He recently stopped by NPR's Studio 4A to perform songs from his latest CD, Motown, in which he sings his own versions of some of the legendary Detroit label's biggest hits.

"It's something I had been waiting to do for a long time," the 51-year-old St. Louis native says of the project. The songs are "just some of the most well-written pop tunes aside from being just big hits. They are songs that have stood the test of time..."

"A lot of truly American music that wasn't so much mainstream really became mainstream during the Motown era," McDonald says.

As for any criticism that a white performer has no business recording Motown, McDonald says: "I have enjoyed so much the music that I grew up listening to. There's always some element of society that will criticize you for doing something... If you worried about criticism, you would do very little in this life."

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