'Listen to the Music': The Doobie Brothers' Quarantine Playlist Brings on the Classics

Doobie Brothers
Clay Patrick McBride

Doobie Brothers

Tom Johnston & Patrick Simmons tell Billboard the songs that are keeping them company through the coronavirus shutdown, including tracks by the late John Prine & Bill Withers.

For more than half a century, The Doobie Brothers have kept us, to quote their 1972 classic, “rockin’ down the highway.”

The quintessential American band, who enter the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year (the May 2 induction ceremony has been postponed to Nov. 7), are instantly identifiable for founding members Tom Johnston’s gritty vocals and Patrick Simmons’ indelible guitar licks. The group’s 50th-anniversary tour, which will include vocalist Michael McDonald with the band for the first time in 25 years, is still slated for this summer.

As the world stays at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnston and Simmons are a lot like the rest of us: turning to music to help them get through the day. Their list includes classic soul and blues and nods to two legends who just left us, John Prine and Bill Withers. “When it comes to making a playlist for the ‘times’ we are all going through, I immediately think of sonic ‘comfort food,’” Johnston says. “Music that brings out a physical and emotional reaction. We all need something to brighten our day and comfort our soul. These are just a few of the many tunes I would list to give a sampler of what I mean. Music is the one thing that everybody can relate to no matter what style you’re into. Truly the international language!”

Below, listen to their full playlist, and see explanations from each member for their picks (their choices are designated by their initials).

“Fire on the Bayou,” Meters
“This is earth music! The infectious rhythm is one example of New Orleans style music, a city that has given this country so much music, food, and history. The birthplace of Jazz, Zydeco, and some of the best R&B on the planet. Very unique. There is not enough space to truly represent all facets of NOLA styles in this playlist.” (TJ)

“Wristband,” Paul Simon
“From his fairly recent album, Stranger to Stranger. Anytime I’m backstage visiting anyone, this always happens. Sometimes even at one of our own gigs.” (PS)

“Never in My Life,” Mountain
“I love smash mouth ROCK! Meant to be played at high volume! Animal music. Mountain formed in Long Island and are an example of one of many aspects of New York musical styles, from folk in the Village to rock of all varieties, home to many jazz greats, to Broadway theater….the city that never sleeps.” (TJ)

“Colors,” Edie Brickell
“I love her latest record with the New Bohemians. This song always gets me when she says, “Here it is…” (PS)

“Cross Cut Saw,” Albert King
“The Velvet Bulldozer! One of my guitar heroes from the blues world, backed up here by the Stax/Volt rhythm section. The perfect bed for Albert to play his singing, note-bending guitar style over.” (TJ)

“Soft Place to Land,” Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop
“I always feel like I’m coming back home when I hear this welcoming track.” (PS)

“A Change Is Gonna Come,” Aretha Franklin
“The Queen of Soul, a singer who brought the ability to move us in so many ways. In this case, maybe to tears as she covers the great Sam Cooke tune. But she could turn around and take you as high as the sky in a song like [this].” (TJ)

“Rust,” Pat Simmons Jr.
“From my son’s EP. I just love this track. Kinda speaks to where we are these days.” (PS)

“See Saw,” Aretha Franklin
“This is the sassy get-up-and-shake-it version of Aretha with the Muscle Shoals rhythm section. Another group of killer players who are behind a ton of hits that everyone knows.” (TJ)

“When I Get to Heaven” and “Long Monday,” John Prine
“Such a loss to our musical family. I wanna keep him around close, as long as I can. There is something so cool about Mindy Smith’s background harmony on “Long Monday.” (PS)

“Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About,” Bonnie Raitt
“What a voice!! Bonnie is a gift! She sings from the heart and has vast experience on the road in everything from small bars to stadiums. She’s done it all.” (TJ)

“Blues With a Feeling" Paul Butterfield Blues Band
“Paul’s harp playing is like nobody else. Maybe my favorite blues band, and certainly the album as well.” (PS)

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” Stevie Wonder
“So many great songs both in the earlier Motown catalog to his more recent stuff. A creative genius. He’s done many styles but this is ‘get-up-and-dance’ music!” (TJ)

“Highway 49,” Howlin’ Wolf
“Rockin’ Wolf! Not a real well known Howlin’ Wolf song, but I really love this tune.” (PS)

“Sittin on the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding
“Otis left us a catalog of incredible songs and a style that will never be duplicated. A song to stare out your window and daydream, listening to that sweet soul music.” (TJ)

“So What,” Miles Davis
“This track always picks me up, and sets me back down in the right place. I know I’m always gonna land where I need to be.” (PS)

“Life in the Fast Lane,” The Eagles
“What can I say? The pinnacle of the Southern California rock scene. Joe Walsh meets The Eagles. Killer guitar work, outstanding lyrics and vocals! A classic.” (TJ)

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” Tommy Emmanuel
“My favorite version of this old standard. His magical playing sounds like a bunch of guys playing together, but it’s just Tommy on one guitar all by himself. Genius…" (PS)

“Lean on Me,” Bill Withers
“A song so appropriate for this time done by the legend who wrote and performed this forever song and so many more. RIP.” (TJ)

“Indifference,” Moby Grape
“Back to our roots. Skip Spence, the guy who sorta brought the Doobie Brothers together. Wish he was still around to reap the rewards he so deserves.” (PS)