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‘Just the Two of Us’ Songwriter Ralph MacDonald Dead at 67

Ralph MacDonald
Echoes, Redferns

Ralph MacDonald, a songwriter and session musician whose work appeared on countless albums, has succumbed to lung cancer at the age of 67.

As a songwriter, MacDonald is best known for ‘Just the Two of Us,’ originally recorded — and turned into a smash hit — by Bill Withers and Grover Washington, Jr. in 1981. (Younger listeners might be more familiar with Will Smith‘s cover, released in 1998.)

MacDonald logged plenty of other songwriting credits for other artists, including ‘Where Is the Love’ (made famous by Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway), but he stayed busiest as a session percussionist, lending his talents to an eclectic list of artists that included Jimmy Buffett, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Amy Winehouse, Paul Simon, and Aretha Franklin. Hits featuring MacDonald’s expert timekeeping include Bowie’s ‘Young Americans’ and Buffett’s ‘Margaritaville.’

He also stayed busy as a solo artist, winning a Grammy for ‘Calypso Breakdown,’ the song he contributed to the ‘Saturday Night Fever’ soundtrack, and releasing nine albums between 1976 and 2008. He is survived by his wife, their four children, and three grandchildren.

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