Make Your Voice Heard
How Michael McDonald Ruined My Marriage (Sort Of)
We’d drifted apart, and my husband couldn’t believe it was Michael who had brought us together in the first place
We had been drifting apart since the kids had moved out and on with their lives. For the record, I tried. Really hard. But I just couldn’t sit through my husband Mark’s preferred genre of bleak and sinister TV shows. As a person with generalized anxiety disorder and chronic depression, it was in my best interest to go my separate viewing way.
So he stayed in the back sunroom, immersed in cold-blooded killers, futuristic hellscapes, and Blue Bloods, while I camped out in the front room, romping through witty comedies. We’d exchange pleasantries during bathroom breaks — he’d give me recaps of the predictable-to-me plot twists, and I would feign interest for the sake of the marriage, eager to get back to my episode of Drunk History.
But then, New Year’s Eve came. A night when couples should, at the very least, spend quality TV time together. I scrolled through the offerings. He passed judgement.
“Poirot?” I asked.
“No,” he said flatly.
“Lincoln? Daniel Day Lewis?”
I suggested The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. “It’s about a bunch of British retirees who move to India.”
“Is Helen Mirren in it?”
“Uh, no. Judi Dench.”
“Pass,” he said.
Mid-scroll, he stopped me. “Ooh. Back up. What was that . . . Doobie Brothers? Concert? Go back to that.”
Yes. There it was. A full video of a Doobie Brothers concert, taped in 1979 at Alpine Valley in Wisconsin. “I was at that concert,” he said.
For most people, being at a concert meant they had been in the crowd, but for Mark, being at the concert meant he had been above the crowd, working as a follow spotlight operator. AKA the guy who climbs a rope ladder up, up, up to a precarious position on a narrow catwalk.
We settled in with our charcuterie while Michael McDonald sang “Take Me In Your Arms.” I was transported back to 1979. Young. Bell-bottomed. My hair cut in a Kristy McNichol shag. Mark made a dissatisfied noise, as if he had chosen a bad selection from the cured meats and had to commit to swallowing. “God! I hate Michael McDonald,” he said.
Oh, boy. Here we go.
“He ruined the sound of a really good, kick-ass rock band . . .”
Here comes the part about how he made them sound like elevator music.
“–and made them sound like elevator music!”
I shoved a piece of crusty bread into my mouth to keep it shut.
For the length of our marriage, whenever a Michael McDonald song popped on the radio, Mark couldn’t change the station fast enough. I could have taken umbrage, but I didn’t because . . . what was it my mother had said? Pick your battles? I never thought it was a battle to wage.
“I happen to like Michael McDonald!” I said.
Mark stopped mid-chew. “What?”
“You heard me. I like Michael McDonald. Big fan. Hu-uge.”
He got up and stood in front of the television, blocking my view of Michael’s thick salt and peppered head of hair that I had dreamed of running my then 27-year-old fingers through.
“Could you move, please? I can’t see Michael’s incredibly long lashes in this close-up.”
“H-how long have you felt this way? Is this a recent thing?”
“Nope. Not recent. I’ve felt this way forever.”
Mark rubbed his forehead with his hand. He walked into the kitchen and stayed there for the duration of the concert. Fine. I had Michael et al all to myself for the next 50 minutes. I wanted to be that mic, so close to his lips, his eyes closed, probably just like the way he looks when he makes out.
Mark returned for the last song, “Listen To The Music.” “Is it safe?” he said.
“By safe do you mean no Michael McDonald?”
“Well, it’s over, so, yeah,” I said.
It was late. No more charcuterie. Michael McDonald was once again a memory, just like my hair, my wardrobe, my choice in men.
When we crawled into bed, Mark had questions. “Why didn’t you ever tell me about this?”
“Listen,” I said. “Remember when we met? All that drama? Should I stay with the guy I had been living with or leave him and go with you, a guy who I had like, just met in a bar?”
“A guy who you had asked to marry after only what . . . a few hours?”
“. . . and a few beers,” I said.
“ and what did I say? I said yes!” he said.
True. He had. I had asked him to marry me because he wanted my phone number and I didn’t want to date anymore. I wanted to cut to the chase, so when I proposed, he hadn’t missed a beat and said, “What the hell, okay!”
“Yeah, but I had to break up with the man I was living with first, and it wasn’t that easy!” I said.
“What are you saying? You had cold feet?!”
I had sobered up a bit, and while I was pretty sure my current relationship was dead and I should move on, I wasn’t totally sure I should move on to Mark.
“So, I had to decide. And do you know who made me decide to go with you?”
“Dear, God. Please, no,” he said.
“Michael McDonald!” I said. “Specifically, the song ‘One Step Closer.’”
Mark covered his face with his hands.
I recited the lyrics:
“I know it’s risky now and then, what with all the what–ifs and the whens . . .you have to admit, there were a lot of what-ifs,” I said.
“Not on my end,” he said.
“Can’t you see we’re runnin’ late . . . we ain’t got time to wait . . . we were practically 30,” I said.
“We were 27!” he said.
“Yeah. 30,” I said.
“It’s closer to 25 than 30,” he said.
“Whatever.” I continued paraphrasing. “Hold on, hold on tight, I can take us through the night all right . . . that was you telling me you had my back, and then, maybe I will take my chance with you . . . I figured if you were willing to take a chance on me, then I’d take a chance with you!”
I heard him sigh. He rolled over onto his side. “Good night,” he said.
“Uh huh,” I said.
I felt him roll back onto his back. “Unless there’s something else you have to tell me?” he asked.
I thought about telling him how there were times when I thought the Beatles were overrated, I mean, Obla Dee Obla Dah? Come on! but, that would have killed him, and I’d be arrested for murder. “Um, no. Not really.”
Listen to more of Mel’s stories on her hilarious podcast House Broken: Stories of Renovation, Romance, and Regret.
Mary Susan Anthony
Beautifully articulated. Everlasting love for Michael and spouse who just doesn’t get it.
Ahhhh… Mark, Mark, Mark… estrogen vs other. Man vs woman. Emotion vs “You gonna eat that?” Mars vs Venus. We’re different. Michael McDonald does crazy thinks to us with his high tenor voice and silvery manet. Do we wanna do him? Not particularly… but to dream…
Let us have our dreams please! And… that’s all!
I am a late 50’s single black woman..I never thought of being with a white man…But above all else, Michael McDonald especially around the time in his 50’s would have been it for me….sexy as hell….I listen to a whole track of his songs to relax me at night on my Alexa….songs give out so many messages…but his voice really puts the twist on them all….I have read some of the challenging healh moments with his wife….she is so blessed. I see that he is also the kind of man that every woman dreams of…a real man, dedicated and with strong family values…A STAND BY ME MAN..yeah…evcn now…when my age makes me feel like I kinda lost some things…he makes me come alive again… he awakens me….smiles…
I loved this. It so reminded my of my situation. Kids grown. Hubby in one room watching reruns of JAG, Magnum PI, and NCIS while I’m in the other room watching comedy and science fiction/fantasy. I’m in my late 50s and he is pushing 70. I too have an obsession with Michael McDonald. Have for years—since the 70s. I even have a Pandora channel called Michael McDonald sweet Freedom. While my husband doesn’t hate him, he does roll his eyes a bit. I so wanted to see the Doobie Brothers In concert last summer mainly because he was supposed to be there. Darn you COVID-19!
Deborah T Norling
LOVED THIS!! So many memories of exactly where I was and with whom during “Michael McDonald Moments ” . The best part, the particular guy I was with liked him too! ( bonus points! )
I have loved Michael since I first saw him as a member of the Obie Brothers back in the 70s performing at the coliseum in Memphis, TN
I loved the voice, loved his looks and fanaticized deeply about us for many nights.
Many years later -in the mid 90’s while visiting a friend in Franklin, TN, I learned Michael would be doing an outdoor concert on the town square. And all we had to do
was bring lawn chairs. This time his hair was as thick as usual, mingled with gray which only made him “hotter”. He looked and sounded wonderful!!! My seat was much, closer to him this time – making it easier to check him out.
All I can say is, there is a 69 year old black lady living in Southaven MS who has been crazy about Michael for years and still thinks he’s “hot”!!!
Jacklan: Yes! And you have tons of us feeling the same way!
Being a professional woman seeming to be enamored with Michael was my secret. All his songs met the moment that I was dealing with and I found perfection in his music. So many years later it still sparks fond feelings and memories. Thank you Michael for being you and bringing your talent to so many people.
Yes, Barbara…..I love Michael too and was to see him last year in London, Ontario, Canada. I guess it will be 2022 now. Darn you COVID! I have recently been watching youtube videos with Michael and others, ie. Christopher Cross, David Pack and James Ingram. He has sung background vocals with so many groups! Please stay healthy, Michael….not like the ZZTop concert we were supposed to go to last summer as well, which has been re-scheduled to 2022, but now there will be no Dusty Hill. Darn you COVID!
My God, the oppression level is off the charts. My heart goes out to you.
Hi, first of all, I’m a guy posting on a woman-oriented website, which I realize is kind of weird, but while searching for info on Michael McDonald I saw this article/blog in the results and it sounded interesting (plus, I’m a long time HUGE Michael McDonald fan and I wanted to defend him if heresy was being committed!). I loved the article, although it is heartbreaking and a little close to home (but I’m confident my marriage didn’t break up over Michael). It seems like in many cases, bringing up long hidden small, and relatively insignificant, differences or issues can be the catalyst to open up bigger chronic, suppressed problems that ultimately result in the collapse of a marriage. regarding your ex’s hate of Michael McDonald, after a brief consideration, I have determined that…it is heresy! I like a lot of the “pre-McDonald era” Doobies Brothers music, but I love the era with Michael so much more. I’ve been a musician since I was a kid, but it shouldn’t take years of music education for an intelligent, unbiased non-musician to recognize the difference between objectively good and bad music and even have a general idea where an artist/song falls in the “quality spectrum” if they’re listened to enough music in different genres over the years. Even though taste in music is subjective, it’s an objective fact that the sophistication and mass appeal of the Doobies Brothers music significantly increased after Michael joined the band (at the multiple hit songs that he wrote and sang on). Sorry about my long winded post!
We welcome all well-informed postings. Thanks for your insights and defense of Michael.
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