Internationally acclaimed percussionist, composer and producer Ralph MacDonald has passed away. He died in Stamford, Connecticut on Sunday, December 18, at the age of 67. Ralph died after a long illness. He had previously suffered from a stroke and a battle with lung cancer.
Ralph MacDonald was born in Harlem, New York as the the son of Patrick MacDonald, better known as Calypso performer "Macbeth the Great", an immigrant from Trinidad.
As a young lad, playing congas in his fatherís Calypso band, Ralph dreamed of a successful music career as percussionist. The band's style of music was derived from Trinidad and Ralph's playing was often opposite Latin percussionists like Ray Barretto and Tito Puente.
Ralph joined Harry Belafonte's band at age 17. After spending ten years as the percussionist for the crooner and Calypso singer, Ralph started a publishing company.
He co-wrote the Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway song Where is the Love and Just the Two of Us, which became a huge hit for Grover Washington, Jr.and Bill Withers. Ralph won two Grammys for producing Calypso Breakdown, which was placed on the hugely successful 'Saturday Night Fever' album.
Launching a solo career in 1976 Ralph played to a starstudded audience at New York's Lincoln Center before recording his first solo album 'Sound Of A Drum'.
In the 1970s Ralph had become the number one studio percussionist. Cuban patterns didn't really fit with the fat back rhythms of the pop songs he was recording, so he began decorating the music with cowbells, tambourines, and triangles - musical colors that would fit the mood of the song.
As a session cat Ralph had the leadership and authority in the studio that enabled him to make significant contributions to numerous recordings: he worked with prominent artists such as George Benson, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Art Garfunkel, Billy Joel, Quincy Jones, Carole King, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Amy Winehouse, and Jimmy Buffett, whose Coral Reefer Band has featured Ralph as member since the late 1990s.
Ralph MacDonald is survived by his wife Grace and children Nefra-Ann, Atiba, Anthony, and Giovanni.