Luther Ingram, the R&B soul singer and songwriter best known for his hit, “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right),” has died. He was 69.
Ingram died Monday at a Belleville, Ill., hospital after suffering for years from diabetes, kidney disease and partial blindness, his wife, Jacqui Ingram, said Tuesday. He had lived in nearby O’Fallon, Ill., outside St. Louis, for 10 years.
Born Nov. 30, 1937, in Jackson, Tenn., Ingram wrote and sang music his whole life, starting as a boy in a sibling group, the Midwest Crusaders, after his family moved in 1947 to Alton, Ill.
He roomed with Jimi Hendrix when each was recording in New York, performed with Ike Turner at clubs in East St. Louis, Ill., and was the opening act for Isaac Hayes. He recorded through the 1980s and performed in concert until the mid-1990s when his health began declining.
“His instrument was his voice; his heart and head were his inspiration,” said friend Bernie Hayes, a St. Louis journalist, disc jockey and author of “The Death of Black Radio.”
“He was a big name until (singer) Luther Vandross came onto the scene,” when younger audiences started to confuse them, he said.
Ingram recorded with Decca Records in New York and in 1965 wrote and sang “I Spy for the FBI” with his brothers in their group, Luther Ingram and the G-Men, for Smash Records, part of the Mercury label. He eventually had a five-year association with Memphis-based Stax Records during the height of its commercial success.
In 1971, Ingram and songwriter-performer Sir Mack Rice (“Mustang Sally”) co-wrote “Respect Yourself” for the Staple Singers, the biggest hit Stax ever had.
The song evolved from Ingram’s concern that young black men needed to respect themselves more. Rice said he thought it would be a great idea for a song, said Tim Sampson, spokesman at Soulsville USA, the nonprofit group that built the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis.
Ingram recorded “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want to Be Right),” in 1972 on Koko Records, which Stax distributed. The song placed No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s R&B chart in 1972.
He stayed with the Stax family until Stax was forced into bankruptcy in 1975.
“Luther was constantly in the studio, working with writers and arrangers,” said Deanie Parker, who spent her career at Stax and Soulsville.
“He was a soft-spoken, quiet, person that I think relished peace. He was a very intense singer; he took it very seriously. When he was rehearsing, he’d go over it and over it and seek perfection.”
His other popular songs include “Ain’t That Loving You (For More Reasons Than One),” “I’ll Be Your Shelter” and “You Never Miss Your Water.”
Ingram was one of the performers in “Wattstax,” a 1972 documentary based on a concert by Stax artists to raise funds for rebuilding the Watts area of Los Angeles after the 1965 race riot.
A “musical visitation” will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday at St. Augustine Catholic Church in East St. Louis. He’ll be buried Monday at Mount Carmel Catholic Cemetery in Belleville.
In addition to his wife of 46 years, Jacqui, Ingram is survived by sons Eric Luther and Kenneth Knight and two grandsons.