Once Upon a Time in the Top Spot: The Doobie Brothers, “What a Fool Believes”
37 years ago today, the Doobie Brothers sat atop the Billboard Hot 100 with the second #1 single of their career and the first featuring Michael McDonald on lead vocals.
Written by McDonald and Kenny Loggins, “What a Fool Believes” may have found its greatest popularity via the Doobie Brothers’ version of the song, but it’s often forgotten that the track actually saw its first release on Loggins’ 1978 album Nightwatch. Loggins, however, didn’t bother to release the song as a single, possibly because he was busy reaping the benefits from his duet with Stevie Nicks, “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend,” which provided him with his first top-5 single.
When the Doobies released “What a Fool Believes” in January 1979, it debuted at #73 on the Hot 100 and progressed up the charts until finally making it to #1 on April 14. It may have only stayed there for just the one week, but when you consider that it was one of very, very few non-disco tracks to ascend to the top spot in 1979, it’s pretty impressive that it made it there at all.
“What a Fool Believes” was a major success for the Doobies beyond the charts as well – in 1980, the band walked away from the Grammy Awards with Song of the Year and Record of the Year – and it’s been covered a number of times in the intervening years, with Aretha Franklin, M People, Peter Cox (frontman for Go West), and Dionne Warwick tackling the track. Arguably the most entertaining take on the song beyond the Doobies’ version, however, is the one by the band Self, which was recorded completely on toy instruments.
Pretty awesome, right? Just not as awesome as the original. So now that you’ve heard Self’s version, you’d better go refresh your memory on just how great the Doobie Brothers did it. (As if you could ever forget!)