Singer, pianist and songwriter James Ingram, a protégé of Quincy Jones who rose from the role of backup singer and sideman to become one of top R&B artists of the 1980s, died Tuesday. He was 66.

His friend and creative partner Debbie Allen announced his death on Twitter, writing "I have lost my dearest friend and creative partner James Ingram to the Celestial Choir. He will always be cherished, loved and remembered for his genius, his love of family and his humanity. I am blessed to have been so close. We will forever speak his name."

TMZ reported the cause as brain cancer.

Ingram had seven Top 20 hits including two #1s, “Baby Come to Me” with Patti Austin in 1983 and “I Don’t Have the Heart” in 1990. His duet with Linda Ronstadt, 1987’s “Somewhere Out There” from An American Tail, peaked at #2, winning the Song of the Year Grammy for James Horner, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. It was nominated for an Oscar as well.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Ingram moved to Los Angeles where he backed up Ray Charles, Leon Haywood and The Coasters. Jones heard a demo of Ingram’s singing and brought him in to sing on his 1981 album The Dude for which Ingram would win two Grammy Awards. Jones and Ingram charted with “Just Once,” “One Hundred Ways” and, in 1990, “The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite).”

A popular duet artist, he recorded with Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes, Michael McDonald, Anita Baker, John Tesh and others. He was also part of the “We Are the World” ensemble, which closely followed his co-writing “P.Y.T.” with Jones for Michael Jackson. He would co-write songs for George Benson, The Pointer Sisters, Monica, Dionne Warwick and others.

In a statement, Jones said, “With that soulful, whisky sounding voice, James Ingram was simply magical. From the minute I first heard his voice on the demo tape for ‘Just Once, to ‘One Hundred Ways,’ his classic duet with Patti Austin ‘How Do You Keep The Music Playing,’ ‘Secret Garden,’ ‘We Are The World,’ and all of our recordings, every beautiful note that James sang pierced your essence and comfortably made itself at home. But it was really no surprise because James was a beautiful human being, with a heart the size of the moon. James Ingram was, and always will be, beyond compare.”

Ingram released his last album in 2008, Stand (in the Light), which was his first record in 15 years at the time. During the late 1990s and early 200s, Ingram recorded with Angie Stone, David Foster, Toto and others.