Photo by Flickr user pinguino k. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

Remembering James Ingram, an Akron-born R&B legend

by Jimmy Smooth

It would be selfish to say the death of Akron-born and raised musician James Ingram is a loss to Akron. It is a loss to the world, especially if you love music.

Cancer claimed Mr. Ingram’s life on Jan. 29 at the age of 66, which at 34, I consider young. Even though he is no longer here with us, he left behind a catalog of music for us to keep enjoying.

The singer and songwriter moved to California in 1973. He joined band Revelation Funk, which appeared in Rudy Ray Moore’s 1975 Dolemite. Mr. Moore died in Akron on Oct. 19, 2008.

By 1981, Mr. Ingram clicked up with legendary music producer Quincy Jones on his album The Dude. Mr. Ingram lent his vocals on joints like “Just Once” and banger “One Hundred Ways,” which won Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1982 Grammys. 1981 was the same year Patti Austin brought Mr. Ingram’s full potential out on “Baby, Come to Me.” By 1983, he was in a good position, with Quincy Jones on his side and a duet with Michael McDonald, “Yah Mo Be There,” on his own debut album It’s Your Night.

If I were a music artist, I couldn’t think of anything better happening for me than to have my own album. The only thing that could compete is maybe co-writing a song for Michael Jackson. Yep — Mr. Ingram co-wrote “Pretty Young Thing” with Quincy Jones, a song that Michael would go on to make a joint that will live forever. Mr. Ingram touched me and I didn’t even know it in 1986 with “Somewhere Out There” from the movie An American Tail.

In 1989, he dropped his album It’s Real, where he experimented with the up-and-coming New Jack Swing sound. Mr. Ingram was also featured on one of the best R&B songs of all time, with El Debarge, Al B. Sure and the late, great Barry White. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m talking about “The Secret Garden,” produced by Quincy Jones.

Throughout the 90s, Mr. Ingram maintained his status with the number-one hit “I Don’t Have the Heart” and countless appearances on movie soundtracks.

I still feel that 66 was too soon to lose the great musician that was a friend of my family. But he left his mark, and I hope his family finds comfort in that. You know you are great when Debbie Allen is your close friend and is the one to break the news that you have passed on to the world.

I hope when it’s my time to go, I will have left behind a legacy for Akron and beyond like James Ingram has. Peace.

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Photo by Flickr user pinguino k. Original file here. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.