James Ingram is our featured retrospective artist of the week. Each Friday we’ll feature a great Beat artist and their history for you to enjoy.
Coming out of the 70’s and into the 80’s, so many great studio singers launched great solo careers. Talents like Luther Vandross to Patti Austin. There were also great voices like Howard Hewett who’d leave Shalamar to go solo, Peabo Bryson who found stardom in the late 70’s all throughout the 80’s and into the early 90’s.
Then there was James Ingram. One of those voices like those mentioned above, when you heard it, you knew that voice. Silky smooth and today we celebrate his career and life because this amazing talent just passed away.
One of the great voices in R&B, in music, James Ingram passed away on Jan. 29, 2019.
With two Grammys to his credit, “One Hundred Ways” from Quincy Jones’ 1981 masterpiece “The Dude” won best male R&B performance.
Lightning struck again in 1984 with former Doobie Brothers vocalist Michael McDonald for “Yah Mo B There” where they won best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals.
Ingram was also nominated for back-to-back best original song Oscars in 1993 and 1994, for co-writing “The Day I Fall in Love” from Beethoven’s 2nd and “Look What Love Has Done” from Junior.
Ingram charted nine hits on the Hot 100, including a pair of No. 1s: “Baby Come to Me,” with Patti Austin, in 1983, and “I Don’t Have the Heart” in 1990. Other top 20-charting Hot 100 hits included “Just Once” (No. 17 in 1981, Quincy Jones featuring Ingram), “Yah Mo Be There” (No. 19 in 1984, with Michael McDonald) and “Somewhere Out There” (No. 2 in 1987, with Linda Ronstadt). He also logged 19 hits on the Adult Contemporary airplay chart and 18 entries on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
He also tallied hits as a songwriter, co-penning Michael Jackson’s top 10 Hot 100 hit “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” from the Thriller album, as well as songs recorded by Pointer Sisters, George Benson, Ray Charles, Shalamar and more.
Born in Akron, Ohio, Ingram lived with his mother and father until he was 10 years old, then moved in with his grandmother. He later moved to Los Angeles and played with the band Revelation Funk, which made an appearance in the Rudy Ray Moore film Dolemite. He also later played keyboards for Ray Charles before becoming famous. Meanwhile, his younger brother, Phillip Ingram, became prominent as a member of the Motown group, Switch.
In 1981, Ingram provided the vocals to “Just Once” and “One Hundred Ways” on Quincy Jones’s album The Dude, which earned him triple Grammy nominations, including Best New Artist. “One Hundred Ways” won him the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his work. On December 11, 1981, Ingram appeared as a guest on the Canadian comedy series SCTV (aired on NBC), singing “Just Once”.
Ingram’s debut album, It’s Your Night, appeared in 1983, including the ballad “There’s No Easy Way”. He also worked with other notable artists such as Donna Summer, Ray Charles, Anita Baker, Viktor Lazlo, Nancy Wilson, Natalie Cole, and Kenny Rogers. In October 1990, he scored a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with the love ballad “I Don’t Have the Heart”, from his It’s Real album.
In 1984, Ingram received three Grammy nominations: “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” (his second duet with recording artist Patti Austin), for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals; the US Top 10 single, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” for Michael Jackson which he and Quincy Jones co-wrote, for Best R&B Song; and the track “Party Animal” for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. In early 1985, he was again triple nominated, for his debut album for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance, and its single, “Yah Mo B There” (a duet with fellow R&B musician Michael McDonald), for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, winning the latter.
Ingram is perhaps best known for his hit collaborations with other vocalists. He scored a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 chart in February 1983 with Patti Austin on the duet “Baby, Come to Me”, a song made popular on TV’s General Hospital. A second Austin–Ingram duet, “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”, was featured in the movie Best Friends and earned an Oscar nomination. A few years later, he won a 1985 Grammy Award for “Yah Mo B There”, a duet with Michael McDonald. And he teamed up with Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes for the Top 40 ballad “What About Me?” in 1984. In 1985, he participated in the charity single “We Are the World”.
Ingram teamed with American vocalist Linda Ronstadt and had a top ten hit in the U.S. and the U.K. in 1987 with “Somewhere Out There”, the theme from the animated feature film An American Tail. The song was awarded the 1987 Grammy Award for Song of the Year. It also received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. It was one of the last million-selling Gold-certified 45 RPM singles to be issued by the RIAA.
In the 1990s, his highest-profile team-up came again with Quincy Jones, on the song “The Secret Garden”. This song also featured vocals by Barry White, El Debarge, and Al B. Sure!.
Soundtrack songs were popular for Ingram in the 1990s. From the movie Sarafina! came “One More Time”, and from City Slickers came “Where Did My Heart Go?”.
In 1991, he and Melissa Manchester did the song The Brightest Star on the cartoon Christmas movie Precious Moments Timmy’s Gift. In 1993, he and Melissa Manchester again partnered to do the song The Brightest Star for yet another cartoon Christmas movie Precious Moments Timmy’s Special Delivery. Ingram’s 1994 composition “The Day I Fall in Love”, a duet with Dolly Parton, was the theme song for the movie Beethoven’s 2nd and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Ingram and Parton performed the song live on the Oscar broadcast. In 1997, he collaborated with Carnie Wilson, writing the song “Our Time Has Come”, and lent it to the animated film Cats Don’t Dance.
During the summer of 2004, Ingram participated in the U.S. television reality show Celebrity Duets as a duet partner. The show combined professional vocalists, of different musical genre, with entertainers of different backgrounds in a weekly elimination competition. In 2006, he and neo-soul singer Angie Stone teamed up on “My People”.
In 2011, Ingram joined Cliff Richard’s list of special guest performers on his Soulicious Tour performing at various UK venues during November. He sang two songs from the album with Richard, as well a solo of “Just Once”.
In 2012, Ingram appeared as himself in the ABC television show Suburgatory, in the episode entitled “The Motherload”. Also in 2012, he was a guest vocalist at Debbie Allen’s October 13 live show at the corner of Crenshaw Blvd. and Martin Luther King Blvd. celebrating the arrival of the Space Shuttle Endeavour, singing R. Kelly’s I Believe I Can Fly
I have lost my dearest friend and creative partner James Ingram to the Celestial Choir. He will always be cherished, loved and remembered for his genius, his love of family and his humanity. I am blessed to have been so close. We will forever speak his name.❤️ pic.twitter.com/TDJfpbbJWa
— Debbie Allen (@msdebbieallen) January 29, 2019
There are no words to convey how much my ❤️ aches with the news of the passing of my baby brother, James Ingram. With that soulful, whisky sounding voice, James was simply magical. He was, & always will be, beyond compare. Rest In Peace my baby bro…You’ll be in my ❤️ forever pic.twitter.com/oZtA9h8uZR
— Quincy Jones (@QuincyDJones) January 29, 2019
Enjoy his amazing, soulful body of work below with all those he’s worked with in the past 40 plus years
Find out more about this great artist when you visit his Facebook page at