I am among the huge list of artists that had the blessing of being in the presence of and touched by the beautiful spirit of James Ingram. I worked with him both in the studio and in concert. To hear that voice from all those hit records singing in the studio or in a rehearsal as he faced the band was something I’ll never forget. But my favorite moment with him and that for which I’m most grateful is the reason I sing to this day.
Years ago, we were rehearsing for some shows and we took a bathroom break. As I exited the bathroom, much to my surprise, James was standing there. He said, “Who else is in there with you?” I didn’t understand the question since it was a one-person bathroom. He said it again and I said, “Me, why?” He asked if that was me singing in there. I told him it was and he said, “You need to be singing for real with a voice like that.” I thanked him and said I liked to sing and was a good enough background singer and that was fine for me. He replied, “Listen, I was just like you. I was the keyboard player in my brother’s band because he was the real singer. Quincy heard me messing around one day and told me I needed to be singing. He had me come and sing in the studio and I’ve been singing lead ever since. You have a voice that needs to be out front and if you keep singing like this, somebody’s gonna make you sing util you embrace your gift.” I was stunned as I really liked singing but wasn’t confident enough in my voice to step out and sing LEAD especially considering the community of singers I was a part of who were among the very best singers in the country and had voices I greatly admired.
While on the road, at a soundcheck, he pulled from BEHIND the keyboard to sing “One Hundred Ways” as he stood there looking at me. No pressure… I did my very best to sound good as I didn’t feel he was doing anything but giving me love & support to spread my wings. Honestly it felt good and he was SO encouraging afterwards as he told me again that I needed to be singing “for real.” So it’s because of the now late, great James Ingram that I sing to this day. This was who he was. I’ve heard many stories like this about his encouragement from other people as well. I’m sad that this gifted artist has left us and even sadder that this source of encouragement for so many younger artists has passed on. I can only pray that the rest of us would find a way to encourage someone on their artistic and life journey the way he encouraged me. Rest In Peace and Music brotha James. God bless you and thank you –