Listen To The Music

Album: Toulouse Street (1972)
Charted: 29 11

Songfacts®:

  • The Doobie Brothers' first hit, "Listen To The Music" was written by the band's lead vocalist, Tom Johnston, who also played guitar on the track. He told Songfacts how it came together: "It was all based around this somewhat Utopian view of the world. The idea was that music would lift man up to a higher plane, and that world leaders, if they were able to sit down on some big grassy knoll where the sun was shining and hear music - such as the type I was playing - would figure out that everybody had more in common than they had not in common, and it was certainly not worth getting in such a bad state of affairs about. Everybody in the world would therefore benefit from this point of view. Just basically that music would make everything better. And of course I've since kind of realized it doesn't work that way."

    Johnston has seen the music industry change dramatically - and for the worse - since he formed The Doobie Brothers in 1970. Watching record companies fail to properly develop artists is an example: The Doobie Brothers' self-titled first album was a flop, but Warner Brothers Records stuck with them, never pressuring them to produce a hit, and The Doobies developed into a very successful rock band. Radio stations were victims of deregulation and were taken over by large corporations in the '90s. This led to automation and strictures that limited playlists and innovation. Then there's the matter of the Internet...
  • Johnston wrote many classic Doobie Brothers songs, including "China Grove" and "Long Train Runnin'." This, however, was the only time he produced a guitar lick that he knew would become a hit. Says Johnston: "I was sitting in my bedroom in San Jose. I was doing what I always do, I had been up playing guitar for hours. It was like 2 or 3 in the morning. I had the opening riff to it, and I think I figured out all of the chord changes as well. I called Teddy (producer Ted Templeman), woke him up, and played it for him over the phone, and he was less than enthusiastic. (laughing) I think it was because I woke him up. But he said, 'Well, yeah, it might be pretty good. Needs a couple of changes.' But we didn't ever change anything. It stayed the way it was, the way I had it. The chord changes and everything we made are the same. In the studio, the bass part was added by Tiran (Porter), drums were added by Mike (Hossack), and Pat (Simmons) came up with a couple of parts and put in that banjo at the end. And it was the second time anybody had ever used something like phasing on a record. First time was 'The Big Hurt' by Toni Fisher. But things like 'Long Train Runnin',' I said, 'You're nuts. It'll never be a single.' And it was."
  • The chorus of this song has been used many times for radio jingles.
  • In Al Kooper's memoir Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards, Kooper relates appearing onstage as a guest for a live show by The Doobie Brothers to play this song. This was on New Year's Eve, 1978. After the show, Kooper and The Doobie Brothers, plus a groupie or two, retired for a private party, during which Kooper was introduced to Demerol, which he subsequently fought off an addiction to. On the next day, reeling from the hangover, Kooper got home to his Los Angeles pad just in time to experience - what else but the 1979 Malibu Earthquake!
  • The Doobie Brothers re-recorded this song for their 2014 country-tribute album Southbound. The new version features a vocal contribution from Blake Shelton, and has Hunter Hayes on guitar. The record is a collection of the band's greatest hits featuring lead and backing vocals from a multitude of country artists as well as Michael McDonald, who was with the group from 1975-1982.
  • The Doobie Brothers performed this at the 2014 CMA Awards backed by Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott, Hunter Hayes and Jennifer Nettles.

Comments: 12

  • Nannerl from Cincinnati, OhBack in the 70s, I heard this at every wedding reception & event I attended. It got everyone out on the dance floor & groovin'.
  • Bruce from San Jose, Calif.Play this as you’re driving your car...in seconds you’ll probably catch yourself subconsciously strumming your steering wheel or stick shift like a guitar as you drive along and get into the music!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 27th 1972, "Listen to the Music" by the Doobie Brothers entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and on October 29th, 1972 it peaked at 11 {for 2 weeks} and spent 13 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #3 on the Canadian RPM 100 Singles chart...
    Between 1971 and 1989 the California group had twenty-eight Top 100 records; five made the Top 10 with two reaching #1, "Black Water" for 1 week on March 9th, 1975 and "What A Fool Believes" for 1 week on April 8th, 1979...
    The guys just missed having seven Top 10 records when "Listen to the Music" and "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me)" both peaked at #11 on the Top 100...
    On a personal note: Without the Doobie Brothers, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a joke!
  • Bruce from San Jose, CaSuch a happy, foot-tappin' feel-good song! This world needs more feel-good music like this, don't you think?

    Makes me wanna learn guitar just so I can play this song.....
  • Camille from Toronto, OhTom Johnston's right, who isn't pulled in by this appealing guitar tune as soon as it starts; instantly lifts your spirits. Altho the utopian world he idealizes in the song doesn't exist, it's still not a bad idea to keep the dream alive. Long live rock!
  • Thor from St. Paul, MnIronically, the record company gave the Doobies an ultimatum to write a hit record on their second album or lose their contract. "Listen to the Music" was that hit record.
  • Oldpink from New Castle, InThis goes on my playlist as one of the most joyful songs ever, right alongside The Who's "Going Mobile" and Satchmo's "What A Wonderful World."
    Kick back, listen, and get nice and mellow.
  • Richard from New York City, NyThe version the Doobie Brothers did "Live at Wolf Trap" is awesome.
  • Eric from Lyndonville, VtSuch an unbelievably great song
  • Carol from Clayton, CaNothing compares to the original version of this song, and the album version is the best! One of my very all time favorites, played this so many times, drove my family crazy & the record turned white from the needle!
  • Matt from Raleigh, NcPerhaps the pefect pop/rock song. Funky, yet country, yet rock and a great message - a great blend.
  • Mary from Phoenix, AzI think Johnston is right...music has been taken over by big business....but the classics are always there. It's a great tune!
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