The all-American glory of yacht rock

Yacht rock has its own Lennon and McCartney, except they are named Loggins and McDonald. I know what you’re going to say, but I’ve done the research and it turns out that Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald are not the same guy. McDonald offered a foretaste of the smooth-it-down Eighties on the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It to the Streets” (1976). This was the first hit single ever sung by McDonald, and was there ever a more adorable track about urban unrest? If you blasted that over loudspeakers in the midst of an actual riot, the looting and smashing would stop immediately, and everyone would beg you to stop ruining the mood. As McDonald’s profile was rising, Loggins came by like the guy in the Mr. Microphone commercial: “Hey good lookin’, I’ll be back to pick you up later!” Soon the pair were collaborating on “What a Fool Believes,” (1979), which despite being about a loser is just bouncy enough to qualify as Yacht Rock rather than loser rock. Loggins and McDonald combined again for “This Is It” (1979), a spectacularly non-specific paean to get-er-done Americanism on the cover of which Loggins is depicted holding what appears to be a magical glowing orb — obviously the mystical power cell of Yacht Rock. With “I’m Alright,” the following year, Loggins crafted a tune that was not only the perfect Yacht-Rock track, complete with misspelled title, but inspired the perfect Yacht-Rock conversation: “Did anyone see Caddyshack ?”

The summer of Caddyshack — 1980 — was Yacht Rock’s annus mirabilis. Along came a third natural master of styrofoam wave-coasting: Christopher Cross. Released at the tail end of 1979, his eponymous rookie album became the lodestar of Yacht Rock, containing both of the quintessential examples of the form. Not only did Cross come up with “Ride Like the Wind,” which actually sounds like the internal soundtrack playing in Brad/Chad/Gary’s mind as he rips across the water (and features McDonald’s epic backup vocal), but at the same time gave us “Sailing,” a song without which no one ever would have thought up the term Yacht Rock. Sadly, Cross would later become a casualty of Wimp Rock with “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do”) and “Think of Laura.”