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Grammy Award Winning Artist - Best R&B Vocal for

One Hundred Ways; Best R&B Performance for Group or Duo for Yah Mo B There

Song of the Year for Somewhere Out There

Multiple Grammy and Oscar award nominations

Worked with Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, and others

Hand-picked to work on We are the World

Self-taught musician, composer, singer

Married to Debbie for 35 years and has six children


James Ingram: Never Let Go

by Heather Salon
The 700 Club


James Ingram’s life has always been filled with music. One of six children, James says faith and family have always been at the center of his life – music is something he does, not who he is; and he knows who he is.

“Music is an important part of my life, but it’s not all of my life,” James said. “My family is my life. I never confuse what I am with what I do.”

His new album, Stand (In the Light), showcases many songs of faith and family devotion. The song dearest to his heart is Don’t Let Go - a song that James lives. It’s based on his father’s legacy of teaching James and his five siblings God’s Word, the Christian faith; and that he told them not to let go of it. 

His father has been the key person in James’ life. Though James’ father passed away in 2002, his legacy lives on. James’ father was a deacon in the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) where the family attended. He was also James’ Sunday school teacher. James recalls going to church at least three times a week, and how the Christian faith has been an integral part of his life. In fact, it is his life. He can’t recall a time without God in his life.

James accepted Jesus in his life as a child and has never strayed from his father’s words or the Christian faith. He is now 56-years-old and has been married to his childhood sweetheart for almost 35 years. They have six children, ages ranging from 15 to 32. James said the scripture his father engrained in him was Hebrews 11:1 “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (KJV) Also, he taught James that he could do anything. With faith in God and confidence in himself, there was nothing he couldn’t do.

With the release of Stand (In the Light), people have asked James, ‘if he has had a life of faith his whole life, why just make a Gospel album now? James replies that he has been writing Gospel since the early 1980s. His top hit Yah Mo B There is a song that he wrote to worship God in his own way. He wanted to praise God by His Hebrew name, but shortened it “Yah” and wanted to use modern day language. Yah Mo B There, his hit with Michael McDonald, was the most played song in 1984.

Throughout the years, James’ faith and knowledge of the Bible has grown. Earlier in his life, James says he was trying to get an understanding of the Bible. Now, he is trying to get an “overstanding.” In other words, he’s learned that there is a deeper knowledge of God than we think.

The passage of John 1:1 had a greater meaning one day when James read it, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (KJV) When James really meditated on that scripture, he knew that the story of creation as told in Genesis was not the beginning of God - there was more. James never looked at the world the same way again. That scripture transformed James’ mind. He has been learning and living more in his walk with God ever since, and he knows who he is in God.


James’ older brother, Henry, was the Minister of Music of Gospel in the state of Ohio. Music was always a part of the Ingram home. James brother would lead the family in traditional Christian songs. James always asked his brother to teach him how to play the piano, but his brother would always shoo him away. Eventually, a young, determined James decided to figure it out for himself. He figured out the note system and the mathematics to it. James later taught himself how to play guitar, bass, drums, and synthesizer. James always considers himself a musician first.

When James was older, he started playing with a band called Revelation Funk. They played around Akron, Ohio and later moved to Los Angeles, California. When the band broke up, James knew he wanted to stay in the music business. To do this, he knew he needed to learn to write music. He bought himself a four-track machine. His musical dreams came true when he started to play background music and sang back up for Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and others. He also sang a demo of the song Just Once, which was recorded for only $50. The publisher sent the song to Quincy. After Quincy heard it, he decided to put James on Quincy’s solo album, The Dude.

James sang Just Once, which was his breakout hit and One Hundred Ways, which won James his first Grammy Award. He performed Just Once at the Grammy Award ceremony and was the first artist to open a Grammy ceremony with a ballad. For his debut, James received multiple Grammy nominations, one of the highest for a performer without having his own album released. Throughout his career, James continued collaborating with Quincy Jones. Quincy even handpicked James to perform in the groundbreaking singing and fund-raising effort, We are the World, from the music industry, which raised over $100 million for famine relief in Africa. No one had ever won a Grammy without his own album out, and it was his first time singing live ever.


In 1983, James released his first solo album, It’s Your Night, and collaborated with Michael McDonald on the song Yah Mo B There. This song was the most played song of that year and won a Grammy Award in 1984 for the Best Song by a Group or Duo. Initially, James didn’t tell Quincy he could write music. But eventually, he was found to be a prolific songwriter as well. James recollects that the way he learned music helped develop his hearing. He did not expect his music career to go the direction it did. He just wanted to be a background musician.

James Ingram

He found that his other talents were tapped by other popular artists in the music industry. He wrote the song P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing) on Michael Jackson’s album Thriller, which sold more than 50 million copies. He performed with Patti Austin on the hit songs Baby, Come to Me and How Do You Keep the Music Playing? The latter earned him Grammy and Academy Award nominations. He also wrote Don’t Make Me No Never Mind with Quincy Jones and Roy Gaines for Steven Spielberg’s movie The Color Purple (1985) and sang a duet with Anita Baker, When You Love Someone by Bryan Adams (1995). James’ duet with Linda Rondstadt, Somewhere Out There, for the animated Spielberg film An American Tail received a Grammy for Best song of the Year (1986).

He received Grammy nominations for his duets with Dolly Parton, The Day I Fall in Love, featured in the movie Beethoven 2, and Anita Baker, Look What Love has Done, the theme song from the movie Junior (1994), which were songwriting collaborations with Carole Bayer Sager for the Academy Award’s Original Song category.

In the 1990s James released the song, I Don’t Have the Heart, which he co-produced with Thom Bell. He also worked on the No.1 hit, The Secret Garden, with Barry White, Al B. Sure, and El DeBarge on Quincy Jones multi-platinum album Back on the Block. He also released Forever More: The Best of James Ingram, which had new songs and old favorites.

James continues to work with choreographer and producer Debbie Allen on musical projects. They partnered together on James’ current album Stand (In the Light) and musical theater works, such as Alex in Wonderland, Brothers of the Night, and The Legend. Recently, he also received recognition for his work on the song, Good Life, performed by Kanye West (featuring T-Pain) in 2007.

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