Michael McDonald Is 'Always Flattered' When Music Fans Are Surprised That He's White (Exclusive)

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The Doobie Brothers member's new memoir, 'What a Fool Believes,' is out Tuesday

<p>Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Contour RA by Getty</p> Doobie Brothers from left John McFee, Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald and Tom Johnston

Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times via Contour RA by Getty

Doobie Brothers from left John McFee, Patrick Simmons, Michael McDonald and Tom Johnston

Doobie Brothers fan or not, most people know and love their hit song "What a Fool Believes." What many don't know is that the man on lead vocals, Michael McDonald, is white.

Speaking to PEOPLE about his memoir What a Fool Believes, out Tuesday, the longtime Doobie Brothers member said that throughout his career, many who have heard his voice but didn't know what he looked like were surprised to learn he's white — and that always "flattered" him.

"My greatest desire growing up was to sing like my idols, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye. I always kind of studied, I don't know that I studied their voices so much as I studied what I felt was in here, what was coming from their heart," McDonald, 72, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

"That was what always intrigued me. When I heard Ray Charles sing for the first time, it's like my life was changed forever," he continues. "I heard, certainly musically, but just in general, I heard someone express something that I had never heard before, and in a way that I'd never heard it expressed before. And it just happened to be in a musical form as a vocalist."

<p>Michael Ochs Archives/Getty</p> The Doobie Brothers Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, John Hartman, Patrick Simmons, Keith Knudsen, Tiran Porter and Michael McDonald

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The Doobie Brothers Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, John Hartman, Patrick Simmons, Keith Knudsen, Tiran Porter and Michael McDonald

Related: Michael McDonald Has Been Sober for 27 Years After Being 'Thrown Out' of Wife's Recovery Meeting Drunk (Exclusive)

Through his idols, McDonald realized that if he were to become a musician one day, he would want to have that same impact on others.

"The words of the song weren't just the words of the song, and the melody wasn't just the melody, it was something more, it was an avenue towards a relationship with whoever was listening," he says. "That wouldn't happen any other way. And that was really eyeopening for me."

Elsewhere in the interview, McDonald reflected on his musical career and how he remains in awe of the full circle moments he's had.

"What came from that era for me was that kind of fourth dimension of my life where I actually got to participate in all kinds of musical endeavors that I never really dreamed I would," says McDonald, who went on to collaborate with Charles on "Hey Girl."

<p>Henry Diltz/Corbis via Getty</p> Michael McDonald

Henry Diltz/Corbis via Getty

Michael McDonald

Related: Michael McDonald Is 'Grateful' for Lessons Learned After Wife's Breast Cancer Diagnosis: 'She Put Us First' (Exclusive)

He continues, "The randomness of all those events was amazing. I got to actually sing and work with some of the people I idolized when I was a kid, Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, and all these people. So, the further on in life I get, the more improbable it all seems, and more fantastic and more grateful I am."

What a Fool Believes, which was co-written by McDonald's longtime friend, actor Paul Reiser, is out now.

For more from McDonald, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstand everywhere now.

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Read the original article on People.