The Westcoast Soul of James Ingram


When Quincy Jones started recording The Dude in 1980, he was coming off of a monster collaboration with Michael Jackson. He had just helped MJ rebrand himself as an adult superstar, and the world was ready to hear Quincy’s next project. Quincy split the vocals on The Dude between jazz vocalist Patti Austin and a new singer called James Ingram and became one of the definitive early 80s Westcoast albums. And the world was introduced to James’ gruff yet warm tenor a sound that could elevate a simple ballad into a world-weary plea with his inimitable upper register howl.

Just Once & One Hundred Ways would be Quincy’s first Top 20 pop hits after an up-to-then 30-year career in music. Ingram would go on to create some of the best crafted WestCoast Soul of the 80s and early 90s working with some of the best studio musicians of the day [Steve Lukather, Greg Phillenganes, Michale Boddicker, Nathan East, Paulinho DaCosta] all the while being branded as the consummate singing partner. In fact, out of his 8 Top 40 hits, only one them was credited to him as a solo singer, 1990’s #1 I Don’t Have The Heart, also producer Thom Bell’s last notable pop hit.

James had hits as a featured guest with Quincy Jones as well as duets with Patti Austin (Baby Come To Me, #1), Michael McDonald (Yah Mo B There, #19), and Linda Ronstadt (Somewhere Out There, #2). He also had a hit as a trio with Kenny Rogers & Kim Carnes (What About Me?, #15) and a quartet with Barry White, Al. B Sure & El Debarge (The Secret Garden, #31). He also sang duets with Anita Baker & Dolly Parton and teamed up with John Tesh and The Boston Pops Orchestra. He was nominated for 14 Grammys winning 2 and co-wrote P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing) on Thriller, which hopefully kept him and his family comfortable throughout his life.

James left us on January 29th, 2019, but he lives on through his unique one-of-a-kind howl.