Despite the fact that my parents were educators, I rode the bus to school every morning until I got my driver’s license. School buses seemed like a right of passage, especially back in the Seventies. Back then, everyone rode the bus, including high school kids. Most of the high school kids then did not have cars so they had to ride the bus with us annoying grade school kids.
Those older kids were something of cultural heroes to me. For Central Indiana, they wore the coolest clothes, had awesome hair and listened to the greatest music at the time. Oh, and the guys told the best jokes. Of course, since I was a loud-mouthed hyperactive kid, I was often the butt of those jokes and pranks. Still, I learned the secrets to the most mysterious being in the world from those adolescent males: the teenage girl. If even half of their stories were true, they were some of the most promiscuous males this side of those mustachioed porn stars of the day. According to them, they were all Lotharios. As I grew up, I was disappointed to discover they were all living in that great world of the testosterone-drenched brain of the horny male.
Yet, for all of their weaknesses, that group of males did teach me about the music of the era. Through them I discovered the strength of a great make-out song, the power of a cruising song for the car and the sheer joy of watching artists perform on Midnight Concert and In Concert. The music of the early Seventies is full of diversity. I was introduced to the first strains of heavy metal through Black Sabbath, the singer/songwriter movement with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the pop perfection of Elton John, the soul of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, the comedy of Cheech & Chong and the boogie of The Doobie Brothers.
You see, in the early Seventies, The Doobie Brothers made the songs that I remember hearing all of those guys playing from the 8-Track tape decks in their parents’ cars when they were cruising up and down the streets in search of girls in the neighborhood. Countless times, those same guys were parking those cars in the street around my house, all blaring the same great radio station of the day, WNAP-FM (“The Buzzard”!), just to play basketball in our driveway with me. I think it was because we had the best goal in the neighborhood. Everyone stopped to play with the fourth-grade prodigy with his spanking new crank adjustable basketball goal. Shoot, even their friends who were the stars on the high school basketball team of the day stopped at my house for some driveway hoops. But, the best memories were hearing those cars all blaring The Doobies at the same time. You won’t understand just how cool it was for a little kid to be shown some attention from a group of older guys all the while hearing the latest and greatest tunes of the day.
Still, for my untrained ears, The Doobies sounded so great on those hot summer evenings as the soundtrack to our basketball games. Seriously, how could you NOT enjoy basketball with “Long Train Runnin'”, “China Grove” or “Rockin’ Down the Highway” blaring away? Sure, Alice Cooper, Elton John and Seals & Crofts were fun, but basketball with the Doobies was transcendent. Could it all be the romanticism of a young boy getting attention from some older kids? Probably. Or, was it the fact that so many hot high school girls were hanging out in my yard as we played? Uh, definitely! I had no idea what a doobie was then, but I knew that these brothers sure were making some fantastic music that made those summer evenings seem so magical.
Now, in 2020, this band of what seemed like vagabonds who I later learned were not brothers in the sense of genetics are finally receiving their due by being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No, this is not one of the legendary innovative bands of all-time. What they represent is a working man’s approach to rock music, although individually these men are extraordinary musicians. And, they created a catalog of music that represents the soundtrack of Baby Boomers and older Gen X-ers that just may be generally underappreciated when you move past four or five of their most well-known tunes. Dig deeper and you will find the artist that bridges the gap between the fledgling Americana of The Band, the country rock of the Eagles and the boogie bombast of Bachman Turner Overdrive, and, to me, there’s nothing more American than that. Behind Chicago, these guys represent the best of a particular moment of time in rock music. And, that’s why the Doobie Brothers will be immortalized this spring.
To honor the band, I give to you my 25 favorite songs from the whole career of The Doobie Brothers, a band that transitioned from the boogie band of the early Seventies to the purveyors of the soft rock/white soul mix now known as Yacht Rock. This list should stop all the whining as to why they are getting a place in the RRHOF.
25. “One Step Closer” (Real Love, 1980)
24. “One by One” (Real Love, 1980)
23. “Wheels of Fortune” (Takin’ It to the Streets, 1976)
22. “Nobody” (The Doobie Brothers, 1971)
21. “Little Darling (I Need You)” (Livin’ on the Fault Line, 1977)
20. “The Doctor” (Cycles, 1989)
19. “Echoes of Love” (Livin’ on the Fault Line, 1977)
18. “Eyes of Silver” (What Were Once Vices Are Now Habit, 1974)
17. “Cheat the Hangman” (Stampede, 1975)
16. “Dependin’ on You” (Minute by Minute, 1978)
15. “Minute by Minute” (Minute by Minute, 1978)
14. “Real Love” (Real Love, 1980)
13. “South City Midnight Lady” (The Captain and Me, 1973)
12. “Without You” (The Captain and Me, 1973)
11. “Jesus Is Just Alright” (Toulouse Street, 1972)
10. “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)” (Stampede, 1975). How could anyone pull off a sexy fast song that rocks like this? The Doobies did.
9. “Takin’ It to the Streets” (Takin’ It to the Streets, 1976). The beginning of Yacht Rock can be found here as Michael McDonald joins the band.
8. “Listen to the Music” (Toulouse Street, 1972). Arguably the band’s calling card number.
7. “Rockin’ Down the Highway” (Toulouse Street, 1972). Speed it up and you have the blueprint for Bachman Turner Overdrive.
6. “It Keeps You Runnin’” (Takin’ It to the Streets, 1976). The party band of the Seventies unwittingly unleashed one of the greatest distance runner’s anthems of all time.
5. “Another Park, Another Sunday” (What Were Once Vices Are Now Habit, 1974). This now-forgotten gem is one of the great summer breezy songs of the mid-Seventies. Takes me back every time I hear it.
4. “China Grove” (The Captain and Me, 1973). My wife is from a tiny town in Southern Indiana called Cedar Grove. Over the years, every band that plays a wedding or some other party is required to play this song and change the lyrics from “China Grove” to “Cedar Grove.”
3. “What a Fool Believes” (Minute by Minute, 1978). THE quintessential Yacht Rock song is a damn great song too.
2. “Black Water” (What Were Once Vices Are Now Habit, 1974). The theme song of sixth grade for me.
1. “Long Train Runnin’” (The Captain and Me, 1973). I still say this is a better song than “Summer Breeze” Tom Hunt!