Michael McDonald has looked back on an uncomfortable confrontation with Ray Charles, describing it as “one of the worst moments” in his life.

It was the year 2000 and McDonald was being honored by NAMM with a tribute concert. As the singer recalled during a recent appearance on the Broken Record podcast, the event’s proceeds went to “a program that tries to seek to keep music programs in the public schools alive by donating instruments and texts.”

Many luminaries were booked to perform at the concert, including McDonald’s former band, the Doobie Brothers, Boz Scaggs, Kenny Loggins and Steve Winwood. Also on the bill, one of McDonald’s idols, Ray Charles.

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“Nobody got paid,” the singer recalled. “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.”

Why Did Ray Charles Yell at Michael McDonald?

Hours before the show, McDonald was summoned to Charles’ trailer.

“His road manager came to me," the rocker noted. "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.’”

When McDonald first approached Charles, the music legend was friendly, initially making small talk about the song ‘Hey Girl,’ which he was set to perform during the concert. However, the conversation soon took a turn.

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“He goes, ‘Listen, you got to give me something,’” McDonald remembered, adding that he quickly realized Charles was talking about money. “I said, ‘You know, I would pay you out of my own pocket. I'd be happy to. My only problem is that I've kind of put it to everyone, gave everyone my word that all the money from this thing [is] going to go to this charity. And if I paid anyone, no matter how willing I am to do that, I would be breaking my word to everybody else.”

'I Don't Give a F--- About Your Solemn Oath!'

After explaining that the request had put him in a “weird spot,” McDonald was confronted by Charles. “I'm an old man, God damn it,” the singer declared. “I don't play this shit [for free].”

McDonald further explained that he had given a “solemn oath” that the money would go to charity, only to have Charles firmly respond: “I don’t give a fuck about your solemn oath!”

Eventually, McDonald was able to retreat to the backstage area, where he was finally able to chuckle a little about the ordeal. “Boy, if my friends in Ferguson could see me now. Ray Charles, chewing my ass out,” McDonald said to himself. In the end, Charles played the gig without further incident.

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