Michael McDonald’s Fave Singing Pianists

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Michael McDonald (Photo by Timothy White)

Few artists this side of Daryl Hall possess the kind of rich, blue-eyed soul phrasing that Michael McDonald possesses. In addition to having an incredibly rich musical background that’s found him balancing stints in Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers with an incredibly successful solo career and various music collaborations, McDonald has become a pop culture icon associated with everything from Family Guy to the Yacht Rock phenomenon.

The respected singer-songwriter recently shared some of his favorite vocalists who also happen to tickle the 88s.

Ray Charles (September 23, 1930-June 10, 2004)

Ray Charles (Photo by Victor Diaz Lamich)

“Ray Charles was my greatest inspiration from the time I was a kid growing up. I learned what soul music was about by listening to Ray Charles. It brought the art of being a soul singer to me mentally and from that, I could appreciate so many other artists and singers like Marvin Gaye. Ray Charles was the first opening of that door to rhythm and blues music to me and the genius of it. What happens in a musical phrase sung the right way along with accompanying himself on piano—it was a level of which very few of us will ever achieve.”

Leon Russell (April 2, 1942-November 13, 2016)

Leon Russell (Photo courtesy of Shelter/Blue Thumb Records)

“I’ve always loved Leon Russell and his style of playing and his ability to put a song over. And of course, his writing is beyond excellent. Some of the stuff that he’s written over the years is profoundly genius and so much in the tradition of gospel and blues.”

Harry Connick Jr. (September 11, 1967-present)

Harry Connick Jr. (Photo by Athena LeTrelle)

“I love his musicianship and the way he comes across as a piano-playing vocalist. He’s got such great style and soulfulness. I think Harry is really the guy whose roots are very deep in the New Orleans tradition. On that other level of Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, to me, he is the true carrier of the torch of big band stuff because he brings all of that, in some ways, transcends what’s come before. And that’s because of his very street-level knowledge of music.”

Michael McDonald will be appearing on Feb. 10 at The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, 720 Northern Blvd., Greenvale. For more information, visit www.tillescenter.org or call 516-299-3100.

Read LIW‘s full feature on Michael McDonald: Wide Open With Michael McDonald

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Steve Mosco is editor-in-chief at Anton Media Group, editor of Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald and Levittown Tribune, and a columnist for Long Island Weekly's food and sports sections. He fancies himself a tastemaker, food influencer and king of all eaters.

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