The Doctor

Album: Cycles (1989)
Charted: 73 9
Play Video


  • The Doobie Brothers formed in 1970 with Tom Johnston as their lead singer and primary songwriter. They had a number of hits, including "China Grove," "Black Water" and "Listen To The Music" before Johnston had to leave the band in 1975 because of illness. This is when Michael McDonald joined the band and contributed hits like "Takin' It To the Streets" and "What a Fool Believes." The band broke up in 1982, but in 1987 they reformed with their original lineup for a concert to benefit Vietnam veterans, which led to a series of concerts and a new record deal.

    In 1989, they came out with Cycles and scored a Top 10 hit with "The Doctor," which was the first single for the re-formed Doobies. Tom Johnston told Songfacts: "I actually wrote that song before the band even re-formed. It wasn't called 'The Doctor' then. I was playing with some guys around here in Marin County. I was in a band called Border Patrol, and the chorus that you hear where the actual 'doctor' part is, 'I need to go to the doctor, yadda yadda,' didn't exist. That was written by Charlie Midnight and Eddie Schwartz, that whole – if you want to call it - hit lead chorus.

    I was never that nuts about that song, I gotta be honest with you. It just sounded way too poppy and slick for me. I just didn't think it really had quite the balls as some of our previous tunes. And, you know, it served its purpose. It got us national attention for a little bit. It didn't last very long. But you know, people are paying attention again, and we had just come out with a new album, so that was a good thing."

    The Doobie Brothers reunion stuck; they were still active when they finally got inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.
  • Like their earlier hit "Listen To The Music," this song is about the power of music, which just like a doctor, can cure your ills.
  • In the time since the Doobie Brothers previous album, One Step Closer in 1980, music videos became a very big deal. They made their first one for "The Doctor." Directed by Jim Yukich (known for his Genesis videos), it's very basic, showing the band performing the song on a soundstage. It got some airplay on MTV, but mostly on VH1, which played to an older demographic.

Comments: 1

  • J Drake from Charlotte, NcWhy hasn't anybody covered this song?
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Mike Love of The Beach Boys

Mike Love of The Beach BoysSongwriter Interviews

The lead singer/lyricist of The Beach Boys talks about coming up with the words for "Good Vibrations," "Fun, Fun, Fun," "Kokomo" and other classic songs.

Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)

Jason Newsted (ex-Metallica)Songwriter Interviews

The former Metallica bassist talks about his first time writing a song with James Hetfield, and how a hand-me-down iPad has changed his songwriting.

Five Rockers Who Rolled With The Devil

Five Rockers Who Rolled With The DevilSong Writing

Just how much did these monsters of rock dabble in the occult?

Lita Ford

Lita FordSongwriter Interviews

Lita talks about how they wrote songs in The Runaways, and how she feels about her biggest hit being written by somebody else.

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up Musicians

Into The Great Wide Open: Made-up MusiciansSong Writing

Eddie (played by Johnny Depp in the video) found fame fleeting, but Chuck Berry's made-up musician fared better.

Janis Ian

Janis IanSongwriter Interviews

One of the first successful female singer-songwriters, Janis had her first hit in 1967 at age 15.