Thirty-one years ago this week, the Doobie Brothers released the single that perfectly meshed their original boogie-rock style with the keyboard-heavy R&B that Michael McDonald brought to the table. It would go on to reach Number One on the Billboard Hot 100 and win Grammy Awards for both Record and Song of the Year.
I don’t need to get into details as I did on my previous blog several years ago. You can read that post if you’d like. But again, “What A Fool Believes” is the greatest song ever written.
I have always wondered, in fact, why there haven’t been more blog posts dedicated to this magnificent song, in all its glory. Seems like it’s just me and Stereogum. Either way, here are seven different versions of “What A Fool Believes,” in the order that I dig ’em. This post is dedicated to my wife, who now hates this song more than anything else in the entire world.
Can’t beat the original.
I saw an interview with Michael McDonald recently where he mentioned he’d been fooling around with the riff for ages, without a song to attach it to. Ted Templeman, who was producing the Doobies at the time, kept encouraging McDonald to use it somewhere, often exclaiiming “that’s a hit!” Now, I don’t know much about Ted Templeman. But I do believe that Ted Templeman is a frickin’ genius.
I don’t know if you can necessarily call this a cover, considering that Kenny Loggins co-wrote the song. But after the original, this is my favorite version: it retains some of the original’s flavor, but gives it a completely different spin by adding horns, a few chord changes, and some nice ad-libs. BTW, I saw Kenny Loggins in concert recently, and while he did play all of his greatest hits, he did not play this one. I hate you, Kenny.
NOTE: There is also a Loggins/Mcdonald duet version of this song from Kenny Loggins’ Outside: From the Redwoods album. I did not include it here and I do not recommend listening to it, as it has been stripped of its balls.
From Gizmodgery (available on expensive import at Amazon)
Scott at Stereogum coined this his favorite cover song of all time. I don’t think it’s my favorite, but it’s up there. This song, like all the others on Gizmodgery, is performed entirely on toy instruments.
From Aretha Franklin Greatest Hits Amazon
As always, Aretha takes a song and makes it her own. It’s not my favorite version, but what was I going to do – NOT put Aretha on here? Plus, it has that double-clap thing. Clap clap!
From Best of M People Amazon
I’m lukewarm on this version. But it’s a dance version, so dance up if you’re into that sort of thing. Dancing.
From Samba In Your Casa (currently unavailable)
Great opening. The rest of the song is fairly typical, but those horns are a welcome addition.
From Rockin’ Down The Highway: The Wildlife Concert Amazon
This is a fairly tame version of the song – the kind that most bands do when they reunite for a nostalgia tour – but you gotta give Mike McD props for hitting most of those notes almost 20 years later. Didn’t even change the key like some people we know.
There you have it: seven different versions of one of the biggest (and best) earworms of all time. Enjoy.
(Believe it or not, I have at least three more versions of this song: the Kenny/Michael duet mentioned elsewhere in this post (as stated, no balls), a live bootleg version from ’91 by George Michael (brings nothing to the table), and a version from Australian Idol 2 (ditto). I am still looking for versions by Peter Cox (former lead singer of Go West), and Shane Richie. If you find the Claressa Monteiro version, you can keep it. I heard a 30 second sample on one of the European iTunes stores and that was enough.)