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Memorial Service Celebrates Ralph MacDonald’s Life

December 23rd, 2011

A memorial service was held Thursday in Harlem for Ralph MacDonald, who died earlier this week at the age of 67.

Roberta Flack sang one of his final compositions, thanking him for writing hits for her like “Where is the Love.”

MacDonald died Sunday of lung cancer at age 67. He was living in Stamford, Conn.

“The song is over, but the melody lingers on,” the Rev. Calvin Butts said during the eulogy.

Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson and Paul Shaffer of David Letterman’s “Late Show” band also attended the music-filled memorial for the eight-time Grammy nominee.

“Ralph was a very important part of my life,” Flack said before singing to some 300 mourners in front of his closed casket.

When Flack began touring internationally, MacDonald stepped in as her musical director.

“He was the kind of musician who could play and understand any kind of music,” she said. “There were no limits.”

She emotionally recited the words to one of his last compositions, “We Are a Family,” before singing the song.

“We are proud, and we are free,” she sang. “Yes, we are a family.”

When friend and singer Dennis Collins performed “My Way” in MacDonald’s honor, he drew hearty laughter for changing the line about biting off more than you can chew to, “He pissed off more than just a few.”

Born in Harlem to Trinidadian parents, MacDonald played conga drums as a boy in the 14-piece band led by his father, Patrick MacDonald, aka calypso performer Macbeth The Great.

For a decade, beginning at age 17, he played percussion for Harry Belafonte.

In 1971, he had his breakthrough as a songwriter when Flack and Donny Hathaway scored with “Where is the Love,” co-written with William Salter.

Read more from this article here, and read the New York Times obituary here.

(H/T Phyllis)

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