March 15, 1944|
Harlem, New York
|Died||December 18, 2011
|Occupations||Composer, Arranger, Panman|
His compositions include "Where Is the Love", a Grammy Award winner for the duet Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway, "Just the Two of Us", recorded by Bill Withers and Grover Washington, Jr., and "Mr. Magic" recorded by Grover Washington, Jr.
Growing up in Harlem, U.S.A. under the close mentorship of his Trinbagonian father, Patrick MacDonald (a calypsonian and bandleader originally from Trinidad and Tobago who went by the stage name "Macbeth the Great"), MacDonald began showing his musical talent, particularly with the steelpan, and when he was 17 years old started playing pan for the Harry Belafonte show.
He remained with the Belafonte band for a decade before deciding to strike out on his own. In 1967, together with Bill Eaton and William Salter, he formed the Anisitia Music Incorporated. Anisitia is based in Stamford, Connecticut.
In 1971, Roberta Flack recorded "Where Is the Love", which MacDonald and Salter had written. The duet with Donny Hathaway won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The single was awarded gold status and sold more than one million copies.1 MacDonald played on the session for the song.2
One of MacDonald's best-known compositions is "Just the Two of Us", a single sung by Bill Withers, with saxophone performance by Grover Washington, Jr. It reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and has since been covered and sampled by many artists, including Will Smith.
MacDonald regularly travelled back to Trinidad and Tobago, where he renewed his work in the steelpan, particularly on the hills of Laventille, Trinidad with the multiple Steelband Panorama champions Deperadoes Steel Band, whose shows he attended and with whom he played whenever he got the opportunity, "beating iron" in "The Engine Room" (as a steelband's rhythm section is often called). Calypso and the steelpan were Ralph MacDonald's roots. He composed a song called "You Need More Calypso", musically to articulate how he felt the music world could more benefit by the genre his homeland had given to the world.
His recording credits number in the hundreds and include Burt Bacharach, George Benson, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Art Garfunkel, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones, Carole King, Miriam Makeba, David Sanborn, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Luther Vandross, Amy Winehouse, Bob James, Ashford and Simpson, Nana Mouskouri, The Average White Band, Hall and Oates, The Brothers Johnson, and spent years as a charter member of Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band.
His song "Jam on the Groove" was featured on the breakbeat compilation Ultimate Breaks and Beats. His "Calypso Breakdown" is on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. His song "Mr. Magic" was recorded by saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr..
MacDonald also appears on Amy Lee's CD Use Me.
|This section requires expansion. (February 2012)|
With Patti Austin
With Ron Carter
With Paul Desmond
- Skylark (CTI, 1973)
With Milt Jackson
- Sunflower (CTI, 1972)
With Hubert Laws
With Arif Mardin
- Journey (Atlantic, 1974)
With Bernard Purdie
- Soul Is... Pretty Purdie (Flying Dutchman, 1972)
With Max Roach
- Lift Every Voice and Sing (Atlantic, 1971)
With Don Sebesky
- Giant Box (CTI, 1973)
With Shirley Scott
- Something (Atlantic, 1970)
With Gábor Szabó
- "Ralph MacDonald". soulwalking.co.uk.
- New York Times: "Ralph MacDonald, Pop Percussionist, Dies at 67" December 20, 2011
- "Ralph MacDonald falls to lung cancer". Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. 19 Dec 2011.
- "WITCO Desperadoes Mourns the Passing of Ralph MacDonald". Desperadoes Steel Orchestra website.