James Ingram (February 16, 1952 – January 29, 2019) was an American singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer. He was also a multi Grammy nominated artist, a two-time Grammy Award-winner and a two-time Oscar nominee for the Best Original Song.
He began his career in 1973, and since then James Ingram had charted eight Top 40 hits on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as thirteen top 40 hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. He also charted 20 hits on the Adult Contemporary chart (including two number-ones). He also had two number-one singles on the Hot 100, the first was a duet with fellow R&B artist Patti Austin, “Baby, Come to Me” which topped the U.S. pop chart in 1983, the second was “I Don’t Have the Heart”, which was number-one in 1990 and his only number-one as a solo artist. In between these hits, he also recorded the song “Somewhere Out There” with Linda Ronstadt for the cartoon film An American Tail. The song and the music video both became huge hits. Ingram co-wrote “The Day I Fall in Love”, from the film Beethoven’s 2nd (1993), and singer Patty Smyth’s “Look What Love Has Done”, from the film Junior (1994), which earned him nominations for Best Original Song from the Oscars, Golden Globes, and Grammy Awards in 1994 and 1995.
James Edward Ingram was born in Akron, Ohio, and attended Akron’s East High School and the University of Akron.
Ingram was a promising enough athlete and was offered a track scholarship but he opted for music. At 18 year old he joined the Akron band Revelation Funk, whose achievements included playing as opening act for the Ohio Players, and in 1973 Ingram travelled with them to Los Angeles in search of greater career opportunities. Although they recorded the song “Time Is on Our Side” for the “Blaxploitation” film “Dolemite” (1975), the band were not making enough money in LA and returned to Ohio, but Ingram decided to stay in LA and follow his dream.
He later played keyboards for the legend Ray Charles before becoming famous in his own right. Meanwhile, his younger brother, Phillip, also became famous as a member of the Motown group Switch.
James Ingram sang the vocals to “Just Once” and “One Hundred Ways” on Quincy Jones’s classic 1981 album The Dude, which earned Ingram triple Grammy nominations and won Best New Artist. “One Hundred Ways” won him the Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. On December 11, 1981, Ingram appeared as a guest on the Canadian comedy series SCTV (which was shown on NBC in the US), singing “Just Once”. “It’s Your Night” was Ingram’s debut album and was released in 1983, including the ballad “There’s No Easy Way”. He worked with a lot of other legendary recording artists including 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, James Ingram was nominated for three Grammys, for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” (his second duet with Patti Austin), for Best R&B Song for the US Top 10 single, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” which Ingram and Quincy Jones co-wrote for the one and only Michael Jackson, and for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the track “Party Animal”. In early 1985, he was again triple nominated, for his debut album (It’s Your Night) 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, and won the latter.
Ingram is probably best known by most people 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 (1982) and earned an Oscar nomination. In 1984, he teamed up with Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes for the Top 40 ballad “What About Me?”. In 1985, Ingram won a Grammy Award for “Yah Mo B There”, a duet with Michael McDonald, and also participated in the charity single “We Are the World”.
James Ingram teamed with 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 Grammy Award for Song of the Year, and also was also nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe. It was also one of the last million-selling Gold-certified 45 RPM singles to be issued by the Recording Industry Association of America.
In the 1990s, James Ingram’s highest-profile team-up came with Quincy Jones, on the song “The Secret Garden” which also featured vocals by Barry White, El Debarge, and Al B. Sure! Soundtrack songs were very 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 performed the song “The Brightest Star” in the animated Christmas film “Precious Moments – Timmy’s Gift”. In 1993, they performed the song again in the film’s sequel “Precious Moments – Timmy’s Special Delivery”. Ingram’s 1994 composition “The Day I Fall in Love”, on which he dueted with Dolly Parton, was the theme song for the movie “Beethoven’s 2nd” and was nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award. Ingram and Parton performed the song live on the Oscar broadcast. In 1997, Ingram and Carnie Wilson co-wrote the song “Our Time Has Come” which was featured on the animated film “Cats Don’t Dance”.
There were fifteen years between the release of Ingram’s fourth album, “Always You” in 1993, and his 2008 gospel album “Stand (In the Light)”.
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 various musical genres, with entertainers of different backgrounds in a weekly elimination competition. In 2006, Ingram and neo-soul singer Angie Stone teamed up on “My People”. In 2011, Ingram joined Sir 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 “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”.
James Ingram died from brain cancer, aged 66, on January 29, 2019, at his home in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, Debbie, whom he married in 1975, and their six children.
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