Soul icon James Ingram has passed away after a reported long illness.
Grammy Award winner James Ingram has passed away at the age of 66, it has been confirmed. Friend and actor Debbie Allen confirmed the news on Twitter, with TMZ and SoulTracks reporting on Ingram’s passing. According to TMZ, Ingram had been suffering with “a form of brain cancer”.
Although never one of the best selling male soul artists, James Ingram was certainly one of the most talented to appear in the eighties. Possessing the ability to perfect an R&B ballad, Ingram initially started off his career as a session musician. Growing up in Akron, Ohio, Ingram first began his musical journey as a member of the local group Revolution Funk before going on to tour with Ray Charles and playing keys on several big hits, including Leon Haywood’s ‘Don’t Push It, Don’t Force It’ and Shalamar’s ‘A Night To Remember’.
Ingram also worked as a demo singer, and it was his demo of ‘Just Once’ that caught the ear of Quincy Jones, who hired Ingram to sing the song on his blockbuster album The Dude. Ingram also sang the ballad ‘One Hundred Ways’ on The Dude, and would tour Japan with Jones shortly after the album’s release. ‘Just Once’ would earn Ingram two Grammys, for Best Pop Male Vocal and Best R&B vocal.
Now signed to Jones label, Ingram’s star rose further. He wrote ‘P.Y.T’ for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and was paired with Patti Austen on ‘Baby Come To Me’ and a delightful remake of ‘How Do You Keep The Music Playing’. He would then record with blue-eyed soul and yacht rock icon Michael McDonald on the smash ‘Yah Mo B There’.
Ingram’s solo career, however, never reached the heights that could have been expected from a man of his talent’s. Lumbered with over-produced, over-sanitised eighties and nineties synth productions, Ingram was rescued somewhat by Jones when he was invited to sing on his Back on the Block album. The result, a collaboration between him, El DeBarge, Al B Sure! and Barry White, was a hit.
In 1999 he released a new album featuring re-records of his greatest hits but largely stayed away from performing. He spent the much of the last two decades semi-retired, but he did work with Debbie Allen writing several plays and he released a gospel album in 2007.
According to SoulTracks, Ingram began suffering ‘cognitive issues’ impeding his ability to perform.
Perhaps not the greatest soul artist ever, but James Ingram was a master of the R&B ballad with his unique, gravelly voice. A wonderful singer who has left us far too soon.