Michael McDonald dedicated the song “The Meaning of Love” at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday night to the volunteers of Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine (DWW-SBSM), who “reach out and carry the message of love and compassion to other people.” As we learned earlier in the evening, this is a particularly apt description of the amazing people who donate their time and energy to this organization.
Medical director and UCSB alum Jason Prystowsky explained that DWW-SBSM is a 100 percent volunteer organization that brings medical care directly to homeless people in our area through weekly clinics in Pershing Park and Alameda Park, and biweekly clinics in Isla Vista and at Transition House, the latter a women’s clinic that focuses on their particular needs. Much of the success of this program comes from the volunteers who build relationships with the homeless patients, which allows them to address medical issues before they become more serious. An impressive 93 percent of the organization’s funding goes to program services.
At the Lobero, special recognition was given to longtime volunteers Jennifer Ferraez and Perry Cabugous, and to co-founder Mimi Doohan, whose husband expressed thanks on her behalf because Doohan is currently providing health care to people in Ethiopia.
McDonald, a five-time Grammy winner with Santa Barbara connections, donated his performance to the organization, whose mission he strongly believes in. A family affair of sorts, he was joined by his wife, Amy Holland, on background vocals (and in the spotlight for “The Journey to Miracle River”), and their son Dylan played an enjoyable opening set in the singer-songwriter vein. A special mention also goes to guitarist Bernie Chiaravalle, who provided tasty guitar throughout the elder McDonald’s set.
McDonald is still blessed with his smoothly soulful, instantly recognizable voice. He is perhaps one of the few artists who can credibly cover songs made famous by the likes of Ray Charles (“You Don’t Know Me”), Marvin Gaye (“I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” although McDonald did admit some trepidation before he first recorded this song for his popular 2003 Motown album; here it was a bit more stripped-down) and Stevie Wonder (“Living for the City”, which finally got the Lobero crowd on their feet).
Also on the program was a generous helping of mid-period Doobie Brothers hits from McDonald’s tenure with the band: “You Belong to Me” (co-written with Carly Simon), “It Keeps You Runnin’,” “Minute By Minute,” “What a Fool Believes” (co-written with Kenny Loggins) and “Takin’ It to the Streets.” Hey, these alone would make a pretty good soundtrack to the ‘70s, wouldn’t they?
Other well-known songs were “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)”; “Sweet Freedom,” which McDonald dedicated to Gregory Hines, who co-starred in the movie Running Scared, which featured the song; and “Yah Mo B There.”
It has been said that the measure of a society is how it treats its neediest members. The volunteers of Doctors Without Walls-Santa Barbara Street Medicine deserve our gratitude and support for, to quote McDonald, “takin’ it to the streets.”
You Belong to Me
It Keeps You Runnin’
I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)
You Don’t Know Me
The Journey to Miracle River (Amy Holland)
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Yah Mo B There
The Meaning of Love
Minute By Minute
What a Fool Believes
What the World Needs Now
Takin’ It to the Streets
Living for the City
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.