James Ingram believes only in old-school R&B
“I don’t follow it,” an incredulous James Ingram quipped, when the Inquirer asked whether he kept abreast of new music, especially contemporary R&B.
The 59-year-old singer/songwriter/record producer, who performs Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with guest Lea Salonga, is headstrong in the belief that nothing beats the soul and quality of old-school R&B. “Marvin Gaye, Don Hathaway … it doesn’t get any better than that,” he told the media at a press con last Wednesday for his Big Dome concert.
A self-taught musician who plays the piano, guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, Ingram was moonlighting as a singer for demo tapes of songs when producer Quincy Jones heard his voice. Apparently impressed, Jones recruited him to sing “Just Once” and “One Hundred Ways” on the 1981 album, “Dude.”
Ingram went on to win a Grammy for best R&B performance on that very album.
What followed were a string of more hits: “There’s No Easy Way” from his 1983 debut album “It’s Your Night”; “Baby Come To Me” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”—two duets with Patti Austin; “Yah Mo B There,” a collaboration with Michael McDonald which also won a Grammy in ’85; “What About Me?” which he sang with Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes; “Somewhere Out There,” another duet, this one with Linda Ronstadt.
Ingram also made it to the all-star lineup of artists who recorded “We Are the World” in ’85.
At the press con he sprang to life when the Inquirer asked him to talk about “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” a track from Michael Jackson’s best-selling “Thriller” album. “Quincy gathered everyone who was working on the album and said he wanted a song written about a brand of female underwear called ‘Pretty Young Thing,’” Ingram recounted. “So I went out of the studio and tried writing lyrics and the basic melody.”
Jones asked for revisions, Ingram recalled, and the result was the dance tune released as “Thriller’s” sixth and last single.
“Michael was dancing while he was recording it,” Ingram recalled, adding that the scene was so contagious, even “if I wasn’t much of a dancer myself.”
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