James Ingram, the multi-talented R&B artist who notched hits as both a singer and songwriter, died Tuesday, The New York Times reports. He was 66.
Ingram’s friend and collaborator, Debbie Allen, confirmed the news on Twitter, writing, “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.”
Over the course of his career, Ingram charted two Number One singles on the Billboard Hot 100, earned a pair of Grammy Awards and was also nominated twice for Best Original Song at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. Though his solo career was an undeniable success, Ingram is perhaps best known for his collaborations with artists like Quincy Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Michael McDonald and Patti Austin.
Ingram got his start as a session musician, singing and playing piano for artists like Ray Charles and Marvin Gaye, but his solo career took off when he began working with Jones in the early Eighties. Ingram delivered three breakout performances on Jones’ 1981 album The Dude, singing alongside Michael Jackson on the title track and helming the cuts “Just Once” and “One Hundred Ways.” Ingram earned three Grammy nominations for his work – including Best New Artist – and he took home the trophy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “One Hundred Ways.”
Ingram notched his first Number One a year later on the Jones-produced duet with Patti Austin, “Baby, Come to Me.” The song was not an immediate success. But after the hit soap opera General Hospital began using the song as the theme for one of its characters, the song was re-released and surged to Number One.
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In 1983, Ingram released his debut studio album, It’s Your Night. It was a slow-burning success; it was certified Gold and spawned several minor hits including a follow-up duet with Austin, “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and the Grammy-nominated collaboration with Michael McDonald, “Yah Mo B There.”
Ingram remained a go-to collaborator as both a singer and songwriter throughout the Eighties. He famously co-wrote Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” with Jones, sang on the 1985 charity smash “We Are the World” and, in 1986, combined with Linda Ronstadt on “Somewhere Out There,” the hit theme from the animated movie, An American Tail. In 1990, Ingram finally notched his first and only Number One as a solo artist, the power ballad, “I Don’t Have the Heart.”
Ingram released just one solo album during the Nineties, 1993’s Always You, but he continued to find success as a contributor to film soundtracks. In 1994, his duet with Dolly Parton, “The Day I Fall in Love” from Beethoven’s 2nd, was nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars and the Golden Globes. In 1995, he earned a second round of nods in that category for co-writing Patty Smyth’s “Look What Love Has Done” for the film Junior. Ingram released his last solo album, Stand, in 2008.
“There are no words to convey how much my heart aches with the news of the passing of my baby brother James Ingram,” Quincy Jones said in a statement to Rolling Stone. “With that soulful, whisky-sounding voice, James Ingram was simply magical… [E]very beautiful note that James sang pierced your essence and comfortably made itself at home. But it was really no surprise because James was a beautiful human being, with a heart the size of the moon. James Ingram was, and always will be, beyond compare.”
James Ingram – “I Don’t Have the Heart”
Quincy Jones, James Ingram – “One Hundred Ways”
James Ingram, Linda Ronstadt – “Somewhere Out There”