Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What A Fool Believes...and Yacht Rock

For my money, "What A Fool Believes" is, like, the greatest song ever written. The most well-known version was recorded by the Doobie Brothers in 1978, although I've always considered it a Michael McDonald solo song, because it was McDonald that really shaped the Doobie Brothers sound of that era.

Michael McDonald is the most soulful white guy on the face of the planet, bar none. "What A Fool Believes" is one of the best examples of his talents. It's that scratchy, I-Can't-Believe-He's-A-Cracker voice with that unbelievable falsetto, combined with unbelievable chord structure. Plus, the harmonies on the chorus, with that funky drumbeat and the handclaps...GREATEST SONG EVER WRITTEN.


So I finally purchased the sheet music online in digital format. Here's where I really became impressed with Michael McDonald. (Okay, and co-writer Kenny Loggins too).

Take a look at this screenshot of the sheet music. Admittedly, I am a simplistic piano player, so I find this quite difficult. This specific screenshot shows the transition from key of D(five flats) into E (four sharps), plus tons of naturals in order to properly transition. Yes, I know I can play this if I practice it. But it's like a Stevie Wonder score: just looking at it makes me want to crawl under the bed. (Plus, playing the first stanza repeatedly is not helping my marriage any.)

The bass part doesn't seem to be too difficult - but it's the syncopation between that part and the treble that really makes it a challenge. Oh, and you want me to SING, too? Jesus. This is why I'm in awe of "What A Fool Believes."

Mike (of DWS) and I have become devout fans of "What A Fool Believes." We sing it all the time. Then we sing other songs as if Michael McDonald were to sing them. (Mike doees a great Michael McDonald and an even better Tom Waits.) But we're fans of this entire genre of music - the smooth, funk (and funk-lite) music of the later '70s and early '80s. This is the stuff my mom loves. It's the stuff that I listened to on FM and AM radio stations during our road trips to the Adirondacks. The stuff I heard during our 6 AM drives to the ski slope. The stuff that seems to keep playing on Time-Life commercials.

I have a 2 CD set of these tunes; it's called "Easy N' Cheesy Rock" and it includes the aforementioned gem, as well as "Reminsicing," "I'd Really Love To See You Tonight," "Summer Breeze," "Steal Away" (which steals its chords directly from Michael McDonald) and about three songs apiece from Stephen Bishop and Christopher Cross.

I recently came across a new term for the music that hold so dear: Yacht Rock, as termed by these guys. (I found them via this article.) I'm so happy to find other people who are crazy obsessed with this very specfic period of music.

I've only watched Episode 1 so far, which was hysterical (and focuses on "What A Fool Believes"). The only fault I can find so far is that the dude playing Michael McDonald makes the same mistake just about everybody on TV makes, which is that nobody taught him how to fake playing the piano. But having Hall & Oates portrayed as bullies and Jim Messina as a street bum is just priceless. I can't wait to watch the rest.


Oh, and here are some fascinating trivia tidbits about "What A Fool Believes."

P.S. I really like this song.


At 10/25/2005 12:32 PM, Blogger Michael said...

1. Yacht Rock is a PERFECT term.

2. When we reform the acoustic duo/trio/whatever dedicated to playing this stuff, I vote we call it Jason's Smooth and Easy Yacht Rock Extravaganza, or the Michael McDonald Experience.

3. As for my Michael McDonald impression, "From you alright!?! I learned it by watching you!!" Jason's who impersonate McDonald, have Michael's who impersonate McDonald"

4. I was thinking about this, and this should give you some idea of Michael McDonald's influence on our lives, and I've decided that the best analogy for Michael McDonald's voice, vis a vis, other yacht rock luminaries like Christopher Cross and Don Fagen is that Michael McDonalds voice is like Wes Montgomery's L-5. Tone rolled all the way off, notes are round and warm, almost to the point of being indistinct. Think about it.

5. Yes, I am the dorkiest man alive.

At 10/25/2005 6:31 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I just remember them from playing in What's Happening... the one where Rerun was trying to bootleg the concert...

At 10/25/2005 10:23 PM, Blogger lomara said...

But having Hall & Oates portrayed as bullies and Jim Messina as a street bum is just priceless. I can't wait to watch the rest.

Piece of trivia: When my mother worked at a grocery store in Lynwood, CA back in the 60's, Jimmy Messina (she remembers him as "Jimmy", not Jim) used to come into the store with his Grandparents. When Loggins & Messina got big in the 70's, she used to tell people about "Little Jimmy Messina" at the grocery store.

At 10/27/2005 3:33 PM, Blogger Z said...

Thanks to this post I've been listening to "What a Fool Believes" on my ride home every night. Bitch.

At 7/27/2008 3:00 AM, Blogger kavarney said...

Amazing song. As an old metal-head, this song STILL gets to me. What an example of craftsmanship.

At 5/02/2012 10:55 PM, Blogger hdub said...

Yep. Resonated with me. I have a Stevie Wonder book. It is impossible. I got the sheet music to WAFB, today. It is entirely more difficult than it sounds, so I am dedicating the May and June to its mastery.


Post a Comment

<< Home