The Doobie Brothers Song Lesson Playlist

Today, “Classic Rock” is a name we use to refer to album-oriented rock that graced the 1960s and 1970s, as well as to hard rock that emerged in the ’80s and ’90s. If you were to designate one band as the poster child of this this title, however, you wouldn’t be wrong for picking The Doobie Brothers.

This GRAMMY winning, Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame-inducted band has existed in two distinct forms since their 1970 inception, and spanned several sub-genres. The first “form” of the band featured Tom Johnston on lead vocals, and was far more rock-infused. During this period, the band produced super hits such as, “Listen to The Music,” “Long Train Runnin’,” “Black Water,” and “China Grove.” After suffering from health issues that prevented him from performing, Johnston stepped down as The Doobie Brothers’ frontman in 1976. In order to uphold a record contract for a new album, the band summoned keyboardist and singer, Michael McDonald to front the group and write new material. This began The Doobie Brothers’ second phase that was markedly more in vein of (the genre known as) “blue-eyed soul.” It was during this period the band released even more charting hits, such as “What a Fool Believes” and “Takin’ It To The Streets.”

In this blog, we’ll be highlighting JamPlay’s collection of comprehensive, studio-accurate guitar song lessons. If you’re a Doobie Brothers fan, there’s no better way to learn their songs than the way they were recorded. Let’s dive right in!

“Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers – Song Lesson – JamPlay

Legend has it that “Black Water” was the brain child of Patrick Simmons, as he was encouraged to write the song after playing the opening riff for his producers in the studio. The song was recorded in 1973, and by mid-1975 it became The Doobie Brothers’ first No. 1 hit.

“Black Water” features a Delta-blues-esque acoustic guitar riff that sets the song’s tone. This is accompanied by other acoustic guitar parts throughout.

In JamPlay educator, Tyler Grant’s song lesson, you’ll learn all of the guitar parts for “Black Water.” Check out the full, comprehensive Doobie Brothers song lesson here!

“China Grove” by The Doobie Brothers – Song Lesson – JamPlay

From their 1973 album, The Captain and Me, “China Grove” is a rock-heavy jam that lingered in the Top 40 for eight weeks upon its release. When Tom Johnston wrote the song, he believed he had invented a fictional place called “China Grove.” Supposedly, he later learned from a cab driver that there is, in fact, a real city in Texas called China Grove.

The song focuses mainly on a “cascade” of rhythm guitar parts. The power chord riffs that introduce the song’s theme truly lay the foundation for the whole tune. Chris Buono shows you how to play these parts in his comprehensive, “China Grove” Doobie Brothers guitar lesson. Learn more about the full lesson here!

“Listen to the Music” by The Doobie Brothers – Song Lesson – JamPlay

Released in 1972, The Doobie Brothers’ mega hit, “Listen to the Music” is a force to be reckoned with. Though it only peaked at No. 11 on the US charts, it was covered by both Sonny & Cher and The Isley Brothers the following year. This song remains a popular track on classic rock radio nationwide, and is The Doobie Brothers’ current top song on Spotify.

In his full JamPlay song lesson, David Isaacs shows you how to play all of the parts of “Listen to the Music.” Check out the lesson here!

“Long Train Runnin'” by The Doobie Brothers – Song Lesson – JamPlay

Also from The Captain and Me, “Long Train Runnin’” started as a live-only jam that Tom Johnston apparently didn’t even want to record! But we’re glad he did. This song peaked at No. 8 on the US charts, and was covered by other notable acts, such as Bananarama. “Long Train Runnin'” was also remixed in 1993 to fit modern listening formats, and the re-release charted in many countries worldwide.

This song features two guitar parts that lay out a rhythmic and harmonic landscape for most of the song. D.J. Phillips shows you how to play both guitar parts as heard on the recording in his full “Long Train Runnin'” song lesson!


For more Song Lessons, check out! JamPlay has over 450 guitar courses from 120+ instructors, and online guitar lessons tailored to every skill level, music genre, and playing style. Click here to learn more.

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