Michael McDonald Recalls His Infamous Confrontation With Ray Charles, Calls It “One of the Worst Moments” of His Life

Steely Dan singer/songwriter Michael McDonald recently opened up about the uneasy exchange of words he had with Ray Charles over two decades ago, calling it “one of the worst moments” of his life.

Videos by American Songwriter

For those who may not remember, back in 2000, McDonald was going to be honored with a tribute show put on by the National Association of Music Merchants. Proceeds from the event were going to a program that donated instruments and sheet music to public school music classes.

In a recent interview on the Broken Record Podcast, McDonald spoke about how a number of famous artists were slated to perform at the tribute concert. Just a few names included Kenny Loggins, The Doobie Brothers, and, of course, Ray Charles. Charles also happened to be one of McDonald’s favorite artists.

Obviously, the concert was meant to be a fundraising venture. Apparently, nobody told Charles that.

“Nobody got paid,” McDonald said on the podcast. “Everybody agreed that as long as the money is all going to charity, we’re all good. And apparently Ray had not gotten that memo.”

According to McDonald, he was asked to come to Charles’ trailer just hours before the concert was set to begin.

“His road manager came to me,” said McDonald. “And his road manager was like out of a Lon Chaney movie or something. He had the cane, and he just looked like some kind of a mobster figure. And he says, ‘The boss wants to talk to you.’”

The Explosive Confrontation Between Ray Charles and Michael McDonald

All was friendly and normal at first as McDonald and Charles chatted for a bit about the song Charles was going to perform. Unfortunately, the conversation took a nosedive.

According to McDonald, Charles said that he “has got to give something,” and McDonald realized Charles was implying money. McDonald went on to say that he would have loved to pay Charles out of his own pocket, but he had already told the other performers that all of the proceeds would only be going to charity.

“And if I paid anyone, no matter how willing I am to do that, I would be breaking my word to everybody else,” said McDonald.

Allegedly, Charles blew up.

“I’m an old man, God damn it,” Charles allegedly said. “I don’t play this sh*t [for free].”

When McDonald said he gave a “solemn oath” to the other performers, that only seemed to anger Charles further.

“I don’t give a f*** about your solemn oath!” the “I Got A Woman” singer allegedly yelled.

The conversation ended and McDonald left, where he managed to have a laugh about the fight.

“Boy, if my friends in Ferguson could see me now,” he recalled thinking. “Ray Charles, chewing my a** out.”

While the interaction was unpleasant, Charles did end up performing for the charity concert without any issues. Even deeply loved American musicians can have their diva moments!

Photo by David Redfern

When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Leave a Reply

3 Songs for People Who Say They Don’t Like Everclear

Carly Pearce released a great new country album today

New Country and Americana Albums for June 7, 2024: New Music from Carly Pearce, Tracy Lawrence, and More