Rest in peace, James Ingram: “Just Once” (1981)

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Word circulated this afternoon that Grammy-award winning singer James Ingram passed away today at the age of 66.

In total Ingram put 21 records on the Billboard R&B chart and crossed over to the Pop chart 11 times. All but three of those songs made the Top 40, and two of them – “Baby Come To Me” (with Patti Austin) and “I Don’t Have the Heart” went all the way to the top. His duet with Linda Ronstadt, a song that I know I played a lot in my “light hits” days, “Somewhere Out There” (you know, the Fievel song) just missed, peaking at #2.

Ingram also wrote a bunch of fantastic music that you know as well. He has a writing credit on Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” from Thriller, for which he was nominated for a Grammy. You’d probably know “One Hundred Ways,” which was a huge hit in early 1982, as soon as you heard it. From a pop culture standpoint, you certainly know his composition “Yah Mo B There.” It’s the song that Ingram sang with Michael McDonald. The two won a Grammy for that performance, which might be why the McDonald solo version was always playing in the electronics store in The 40-Year Old Virgin.

The one I thought of first, though, was his first crossover hit.  “Just Once” debuted in the summer of 1981 and made it all the way up to #17. For some reason I have it tied closely to a school dance, although this is unlikely. In 1981 I was in junior high, and we didn’t have such things. I didn’t attend a high school dance until 1984, and, unless they were digging for all the slow songs they could find, can’t imagine that they played it. But there’s something telling me that this was used as the theme for a prom or a homecoming or something. Perhaps an aging high school classmate can help on that.

You can hear “Just Once” by clicking here.

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