1980's hit-maker, R&B singer James Ingram has died at age 66 from brain cancer. Longtime friend and choreographer Debbie Allen broke the news of his death via Twitter. Ingram will always be best known for his string of classic pop singles, “Just Once” and “One Hundred Ways” with Quincy Jones, the 1982 chart-topper “Baby, Come To Me” with Patti Austin — and the duo's followup, the Oscar-nominated “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?” — his duet with Michael McDonald on “Ya Mo B There,” “What About Me” with Kim Carnes and Kenny Rogers, his Top Two duet with Linda Ronstadt on 1987's “Somewhere Out There,” and his 1990 Number One hit, “I Don't Have The Heart.”
Ingram and Quincy Jones co-wrote “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” off of Michael Jackson's Thriller collection, and in 1985 Ingram was a featured vocalist on USA For Africa's chart-topper “We Are The World,” which was co-written by Jackson and Lionel Richie and produced by Jones.
Quincy Jones said in a statement to Billboard: “There are no words to convey how much my heart aches with the news of the passing of my baby brother James Ingram. With that soulful, whisky sounding voice, James Ingram was simply magical. From the minute I first heard his voice on the demo tape for 'Just Once,' to 'One Hundred Ways,' his classic duet with Patti Austin 'How Do You Keep The Music Playing,' 'Secret Garden,' 'We Are The World,' and all of our recordings, every 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. Rest In Peace baby brother. You will be in my heart forever.”
Over the course of his career, James Ingram was nominated for 14 Grammy Awards and won two — the 1981 Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “One Hundred Ways” and 1984's prize for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal for “Yah Mo B There” with Michael McDonald. Ingram is survived by his wife of 44 years, Debra Robinson, and their six children.
When we last caught up with James Ingram, he spoke about the importance of music in his childhood: “Y'know, as a youngster, when I was hurt, I could go to the piano and I didn't want anybody — I didn't call it singin' — I could never do it around my family because I never really thought of myself as a singer. But when they were gone, I'd sit at the piano and I'd call it moanin' and I'd just run over some chords (sings). So I mean, I. . . and I would just go somewhere. I'd be somewhere else in life. So, I could always escape reality. It was always and escape for me.”
Friend and fan Erykah Badu told us that James Ingram's voice was a constant throughout her childhood: “When I hear his voice today, I can remember what was cooking on the stove, the smell of it, y'know, the time of day, if I just got in trouble, or. . . It's just a part of me, it's part of my DNA. So, James Ingram's voice is a strong part of my musical memory as well.”