R.I.P. Ralph MacDonald 1944-2011
This weekend, we lost another great musician, Ralph MacDONALD. Ralph was a great drummer and percussionist, and I have to admit, every time I see a copy of this record (no matter what: 45, Lp or 12″), I get it. Here’s New York City’s own Ralph MacDonald with “Jam On the Groove” on Marlin Records was 1976.
Born in Harlem, NYC in 1944, music was always in MacDONALD’s blood. His father was the Calypso performer MacBeth the Great, so he was close to the Calypso movement in New York City that reached world wide. In his late teens he worked hauling steel drums for a friend who worked for Harry Belafonte. When someone didn’t come to work, he stepped up brashly and played. He was even boastful enough to approach Belafonte and tell him he knew nothing about Calypso, which prompted Belafonte to ask him to write a song. The results were a good amount of tunes on Calypso Carnival. Partnering up with William Eaton and Bill Slater he formed Antisia Music, a publishing company. They would go on to write “Where Is the Love” for Roberta Flack, which went on to sell over 10 million copies. MacDONALD was in, and he wrote for many performers, including Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Grover Washington, Jr., and a song on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. We all know how much that record sold (over 47 million and counting), and would earn 2 Grammys for the NYC native. MacDonald was not one to stop writing or performing, and when he wrote a side called “Just the Two of Us” in 1976 that appeared on Washington, Jr.’s 1980 “Winelight” record, it would be his greatest success. MacDONALD also had been a percussionist for Jimmy Buffet for quite a while, and continued to write, record, and tour up until his death.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with MacDONALD, the most notable use of this record was in Double D and Steinski’s “Lesson 3”. It’s quite a famous break, and with this Disco/ Calypso feel drum pattern and various percussion throughout (I think I heard a triangle in there). Ralph MacDONALD was one of those guys that maybe you didn’t know of, but he was always involved in music. His publishing and writing were where he made his bread and butter, but there is no denying how good the drums are in “Jam On the Groove”. Rest In Power Ralph MacDONALD, and a huge Salut! from Flea Market Funk.
Listen to Ralph MacDONALD – Jam On The Groove from the Marlin Records LP Sound of a Drum
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