Grammy-winning r&b legend, James Ingram dies, age 66

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James Ingram, an r&b legend with crossover appeal, died of brain cancer Tuesday. The singer’s death was announced earlier today on television news in the New York area and on various websites, including CNN, TMZ, Billboard and others.

Ingram won two Grammy awards and was nominated for a total of 14. His smooth voice could take on tenor and baritone range. His approach to singing and songwriting created legendary hits for himself and others.

The Akron, Ohio native reportedly got his professional start as a musician by playing keyboards for Ray Charles before starting a funk band in the 1970s. By the 1980s, though, Ingram was a star in his own right, and in 1981 won a Grammy for his song “One Hundred Ways.”

James Ingram and the early 1980s era of r&b

Ingram’s popularity grew during a time when it sounded as if r&b was reinventing itself. As disco was falling out of fashion, and for many, traditional blues were showing their age, and didn’t fit the expressive needs of a new generation.

Ingram, along with other singers such as Peabo Bryson, Lionel Richie, Jeffrey Osborne, Evelyn “Champagne ” King and more, ushered in a new era of r&b. It was more urban, more nuanced, more sophisticated. It was perfect music for those born at the end of the so-called Baby Boom, who would have been heading to college in the early 1980s.

Musically, Ingram’s music features ardent lyrics that show respect for significant others, even when the romance is ending, for example, “I Don’t Have the Heart.”

Of course, Ingram and others in his generation of singers are credited with making romantic music more complex. There are no simple storylines and the soundscapes are often bassline-oriented, sometimes augmented with strings and piano.

In addition to his own songs, Ingram is widely known for co-writing “P.Y.T.” with Quincy Jones. The song became a hit for Michael Jackson.

As the 1980s continued,  Ingram was involved with USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” single. Ingram was one of several soloists chosen for the recording project that aimed to raise money for needy African populations.

Ingram’s other hits include “Somewhere out There,” “Baby Come to Me,” and “One Hundred Ways.”

TMZ reports that Ingram had suffered from an as yet undisclosed form of brain cancer.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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