Ralph Anthony MacDonald (March 15, 1944 – December 18, 2011) was a Trinbagonian-American percussionist, steelpan virtuoso, songwriter, musical arranger, and record producer.
His compositions include “Where Is the Love”, a Grammy Award winner for the duet of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway; “Just the Two of Us”, recorded by Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr.; and “Mister Magic” recorded by Grover Washington Jr.
Growing up in Harlem, New York, United States, under the close mentorship of his Trinbagonian father, Patrick MacDonald (a calypsonian and bandleader originally from Trinidad and Tobago who used 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 Antisia Music Incorporated. Antisia 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. MacDonald played on the session for the song.
One of MacDonald’s best-known co-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.
As a solo recording artist, MacDonald scored a massive disco hit with “Calypso Breakdown”, recorded for the TK Records imprint, Marlin Records. It was also featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
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 & Oates, The Brothers Johnson, and spent years as a charter member of Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band.
He is also featured on percussion on George Benson’s 1976 album, Breezin’; on percussion on Carole King’s 1975 album, Thoroughbred, and on Looking Glass’s 1973 album Subway Serenade.
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. He provided the percussion to “Mister Magic” recorded by saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr.
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