Obituary: Keith Knudsen, 1948 – 2005

Keith A. Knudsen, 56, drummer, songwriter and singer, died of pneumonia Feb. 8, 2005, at the Kentfield Rehabilitation Hospital, Kentfield, Calif. He was born Feb. 18, 1948, in LeMars, Iowa, and was raised in Princeton, Ill., where many members of his family still live. He was a member of The Doobie Brothers from 1974-82, before rejoining full time in 1993. Knudsen was diagnosed with cancer in 1995.

Prior to joining The Doobie Brothers, he first recorded in 1972-73 with San Francisco–based singer and keyboardist Lee Michaels and plays on the live duet album Lee Michaels Live (A&M Records), Nice Day For Something(Columbia Records) and Space & First Takes (A&M Records).

Knudsen replaced Doobie drummer Michael Hossack in 1973 as the band’s second drummer and joined original drummer John Hartman to propel the band’s twin-drumming attack.

Knudsen was a steady presence with The Doobie Brothers throughout the mid-70s and early ’80s. He appears on hits such as “Black Water” (1975), “Dependin’ On You” (1979), “It Keeps You Runnin’” (1977), “Take Me In Your Arms” (1975), “Takin’ It To The Streets” (1976) and “What A Fool Believes” (1979). He is also heard on many of the top-selling Doobie Brothers albums, including Stampede (1975), Takin’ It To The Streets (1976), Livin’ On The Fault Line (1977) and Minute By Minute(1978).

Knudsen also cowrote Doobie Brothers songs such as “Rocking Horse,” “Time Is Here And Gone” and “You’re Made That Way.”

The Doobie Brothers broke up in 1982 after a farewell tour. Knudsen and fellow Doobie member guitarist John McFee formed the country-rock group Southern Pacific (1983-91), issuing albums on Warner Brothers, including County Line (1989), Killbilly Hill (1986), Southern Pacific (1985) and Zuma (1988).

Knudsen also cowrote several songs for Southern Pacific including “Beyond Love,” “Girl Like Emmylou,” “Road Song” and “What’s It Gonna Take.” Recently, besides playing with The Doobie Brothers, he and McFee also played and recorded (for Elektra Records) with Japanese singer and bassist Eikichi Yazawa.

Knudsen rejoined a revamped Doobie Brothers in the 1990s, featuring original members Tom Johnston and Pat Simmons and the drummer Knudsen had replaced two decades ago, Hossack. They toured, releasing the live Rockin’ Down The Highway: The Wildlife Concert(1996) and recorded a new studio album in 2000, Sibling Rivalry.

As an accompanist, Knudsen plays on Tom Johnston’s (a founder of The Doobie Brothers) solo album Everything You’ve Heard Is True(1979) and with Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, Carlene Carter, Emmylou Harris, Nicolette Larson, Michael McDonald, Carly Simon, Spirit and others.

He was preceeded in death by former Doobie Brothers members, saxophonist Cornelius Bumpus Jr. (1945-2004), percussionist Robert Jay “Bobby” LaKind (1945-92), and bassist David Paul Shogren (1950-99).

For more details, visit The Doobie Brothers’ Web site, www.doobiebros.com.

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