5 Doobie Brothers Essentials

5 Doobie Brothers Essentials

doobie brothers
The Doobie Brothers in 1974. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images. 

Hailing from San Jose, California, the Doobie Brothers spent the decade transforming their mellow, post-hippie boogie sound into slick, seriously catchy, soul-inflected pop, racking up a string of gold and platinum albums along the way.

Despite the groups rotating lineup, sublime vocal harmonies, luscious instrumentation and a propulsive rhythm section have always been at the heart of their music, tying together eras and influences into a cohesive catalogue of classic rock hits that ranks among the all-time greats. 

Sadly, the Doobie Brothers' founding drummer, John Hartman passed away last week (Sept 22), aged 72. The band announced Hartman’s death in a social media post, “Today we are thinking of John Hartman, or Little John to us. John was a wild spirit, great drummer, and showman during his time in the Doobies.”

Hartman was a founding member of the group and performed on many of their biggest hits, including Listen to the Music, Long Train Runnin' and What a Fool Believes. He left the group in 1979 but returned for reunion tours in the years that followed. In 2020, Hartman was one of the nine members of the Doobie Brothers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We’re remembering some of the band’s essential hits in his honour. 

'Listen to the Music'  [1972]

It was the Doobie Brothers' second album, Toulouse Street that brought the band breakthrough success when it was released in July 1972. The polished, but eclectic collection of songs included the now-classic hit, Listen To The Music which was written by guitarist, Tom Johnston. In 2012, Johnston said of the song: “It was based on this utopian ideal that if the leaders of the world got together … and just listened to some music and forgot all this other bulls---, the world would be a better place.”

'China Grove' [1973]

They may have broken their way onto the mainstream with the mellow vibes of Listen To The Music, but the Doobies proved they weren’t afraid to rock with the harder-edged China Grove, which instantly conjures imagery of a crowded biker bar. The track appeared on their third album, The Captain and Me (1973), which cracked the Top 20.

'Black Water' [1974]

Speaking of sublime harmonies… from their fourth studio album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits (1974), Black Water was an unlikely chart-topper for the band. The Patrick Simmons-led single hit the number one spot in March 1975 and eventually propelled the slow-moving album to multi-platinum status.

'It Keeps You Runnin'' [1977]

The Doobie Brothers underwent a major musical change with the departure of founding member Tom Johnston and the arrival of vocalist Michael McDonald. McDonald would take the band in a whole new musical direction, which was laid out on their 1976 album, Takin' It to the Streets which put them on a fast track to the upper reaches of pop mainstream by the time 1978’s Minute by Minute was released. 

'What A Fool Believes' [1978]

What a Fool Believes was one of the few non-disco No. 1 hits of 1979. Kenny Loggins co-wrote this with Doobie’s lead singer at the time, Michael McDonald for their 1978 album, Minute by Minute – an album that secured the band’s place in the history books when it earned Grammys for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1980. 

RIP John Hartman.


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