James Ingram, one of the biggest stars in R&B music in the 1980s and ’90s, and a double Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee, has died at age 66.
Longtime friend Debbie Allen confirmed the news on Twitter. “I have lost my dearest friend and creative partner James Ingram to the Celestial Choir,” she wrote. “He will always be cherished, loved and remembered for his genius, his love of family and his humanity. I am blessed to have been so close. We will forever speak his name.”
“Another dear friend has made his transition,” Gladys Knight said in a statement. “James Ingram, a voice to be recognized and revered, a wonderful human being full of joy. Truly deep, heartfelt condolences to his wife and his family. He will be missed and may he now rest peacefully.”
Ingram’s first No. 1 pop hit was 1982’s “Baby, Come to Me,” a duet with Patti Austin. He again topped the chart in 1990 with “I Don’t Have the Heart.”
He was well known for his soundtrack work, most notably a duet with Linda Ronstadt on “Somewhere Out There,” for the 1986 animated film “An American Tail.” It reached No. 2 on the pop chart and won the Grammy for Song of the Year (with the award going to songwriters James Horner and Cynthia Weil).
Ingram was nominated for 14 Grammy awards from 1982 through 1996, winning for male vocal R&B performance for “One Hundred Ways” and for R&B performance by a duo or group for his collaboration with Michael McDonald, “Yah Mo B There.” Among his other Grammy nods was a nomination for best new artist.
His Oscar nominations for best original song came in 1994-95 for his theme songs from “Beethoven’s 2nd” and “Junior.”
He was the co-author, with Quincy Jones, of one of Michael Jackson’s biggest hits, “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” He re-teamed with Jones and Jackson when he appeared in the “We Are the World” all-star charity video and single.
Other chart-toppers for Ingram included 1984’s “What About Me?,” a collaboration with Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes that reached No. 1 on the adult contemporary chart, and “The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite),” a cut from Jones’ “Back on the Block” album that went to No. 1 at R&B in 1990.
A native of Akron, Ingram had been a session keyboard player and singer in Los Angeles before getting his big break when Jones heard one of his demos and asked him to sing several songs on his “The Dude” album — which was so popular it led to Ingram getting a best new artist Grammy nomination before he even had an album of his own out.
Jones conveyed his heartbreak in a tweet. “There are no words to convey how much my ❤️ aches with the news of the passing of my baby brother, James Ingram,” he wrote. “With that soulful, whisky sounding voice, James was simply magical. He was, and always will be, beyond compare. Rest In Peace my baby bro… You’ll be in my ❤️ forever.”
Before going solo, Ingram was a member of the 1970s group Revelation Funk, which is renewed primarily for a brief appearance in the 1975 cult movie “Dolemite.”
Ingram, who was believed to have been ill for some time, had not been prolific in recent years. His last album, “Stand (in the Light),” which had Jones as a co-producer, was released in 2008. Prior to that, he hadn’t released an album since 1993.
Details on an official cause of death or funeral plans have not been released.