Monday, December 26, 2011

Passing of a Legend Ralph McDonald (March 15, 1944-December 18.2011)

Ralph McDonald was a percussionist, song-writer, musical arranger, record producer, steelpan (drum) virtuoso and philanthropist. Ralph McDonald grew up in Harlem New York, his father was a calypsonian and bandleader who was from Trinidad and Tobago who went by the stage name was “Macbeth the Great”. Ralph McDonald’s musical talent in the steelpan drums landed him a job playing on the Harry Belafonte outfit when he was seventeen. Ralph McDonald left the Harry Belafonte after ten years that was in 1967. Ralph McDonald, Bill Eaton and William Salter formed the Antisia Music Inc. Ralph’s McDonalds big break came when he and William Slater wrote “Where Is The Love” recorded by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway in 1971. This song is a classic and one of my all-time favorites. It won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. It also sold a million copies and was awarded gold status. Ralph McDonald played on this song. Ralph McDonald was best known for is song “Just the Two of Us” a mega hit by sung Bill Withers and Mr. Magic also done by saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. The story behind “Just the Two of Us” (came to Ralph MacDonald after a glossy brochure in the showcase of a Trinidad and Tobago Tourist Board New York office caught his eye (The Tourist Board is the precursor to the Trinidad and Tobago Tourism Development Company). On the cover of the brochure was a picture of a girl on a warm sunny Tobago beach inviting the US tourist to come to the twin-isle tropical state to "discover the both of us". It must have at once brought back a yearning for home, as Ralph immediately began humming a melody built upon lyrics centered around the catchy phrase :)
I see the crystal raindrops fall And the beauty of it all Is when the sun comes shining through To make those rainbows in my mind And I think of you sometime And I want to spend sometime with you
Just the two of us...
This is in my opinion one of the prettiest lyrical songs and another one of my favorites. Ralph McDonald recorded with hundreds of artist I’m going to list a few 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 Jimmy Buffett. Ralph McDonald was featured percussionists on George Benson’s “Breezin” album in 1976, Carole King’s “Thoroughbred” album 1975 and Looking Glass’s “Subway Serenade” album in 1973. I’m writing this blog on Ralph McDonald because of my husband Bryant Mills who is a drummer. He always talked to me about his two idols Ralph McDonald and Harvey Mason ever since we met back in 1984. He would say his playing style came from Ralph McDonald and Harvey Mason. People need to know the history behind songs who wrote them and why they were written. Ralph McDonald was great musician, he will be missed.

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