The family, friends and colleagues of Clarence McDonald are saddened to share the news of his passing on July 21, 2021. 

McDonald was born in Los Angeles at White Memorial Hospital on February 24, 1945. While music brought him around the world, Los Angeles remained his home where he resided in Toluca Lake.  In 2013, McDonald moved to and resided in Las Vegas, NV until his death.

An exceptional talent in a league all his own, the Grammy®-winning artist laid claim to a profound musical career spanning 50+ years.  With commitment, intelligence, generosity, humility, and his signature groove, Clarence McDonald had a hand in creating some of the most memorable music since the late 1960’s.

McDonald’s production, writing and arranging credits include collaborations with The Emotions, Freddie Hubbard, Patti Labelle, Friends of Distinction, The 5th Dimension, Johnny Mathis, Billy Preston, Stanley Turrentine, The Whispers, The Memphis Horns, David T. Walker, Michael Lington, Euge Groove, Deniece Williams, Nancy Wilson and Bill Withers.

As a keyboardist comfortable playing all genres of music, McDonald recorded with a long list of music legends including Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Hall & Oates, The Jackson Five, Seals & Crofts, James Taylor, Marlena Shaw, Barbra Streisand, The Temptations, Al Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Linda Ronstadt and Justin Timberlake among many others.

A highlight of his career was producing The Emotions Platinum Album “Rejoice” with Maurice White which included Billboard #1, Grammy-winning “Best of My Love.” He made songwriting contributions to the Platinum album, “This is Niecy” by Deniece Williams. He co-produced Bill Withers’ Gold Album, “Menagerie” including Billboard #1 “Lovely Day.” He collaborated with Ray Charles on the album “Genius Loves Company” arranging and playing keyboards for the Grammy-winning song “Heaven Help Us All.”

Clarence considered himself truly blessed with wonderful friends and mentors throughout his life. He was fortunate to have been guided and taught by many special people including: his father, Curtis McDonald / music legend, Ray Charles / piano legend, Eubie Blake / and singer, songwriter and minister, O.C. Smith. 

With Clarence on his life’s journey for the past 18 years, was his wife Susan McDonald.  Susan was Clarence’s best friend, constant companion, fierce advocate and dedicated partner.  

We will always remember Clarence’s wonderful talent, magnificent smile, modesty, quick wit and love of life. He touched not only all those he knew but also everyone who loved his musical genius.

The outpouring of love and support from friends, fans and the entire music community has been stirring and heartwarming. 

“The thing that always remained consistent was the standard of excellence provided by Clarence McDonald.” - Sonny Burke, Pianist, Writer, Arranger, Musical Director for Smokey Robinson for 35 years

“Producing fusion albums at RCA in the 1970s, I first had the fine pleasure of working with and getting to know Clarence McDonald, a very adept session keyboard player and arranger.  We were close friends for the next 45 years, allowing me to appreciate his warmth, musicality and deep intelligence. This is a profound loss for me and music.”  -  Mike Lipskin, Jazz Pianist, Producer

McDonald was an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War. He will be buried with full military honors. Memorial details to follow at a later date.