Chances are, if you were anywhere near a radio station from roughly 1980-1987, within thirty minutes you’d hear something from either James Ingram or Michael McDonald. The two Midwestern guys (Ingram was from Akron, OH while McDonald repped St. Louis) were very fond of the duet and/or the background support vocal, and their list of collaborators reads like a laundry list of Eighties hitmakers: Michael Jackson, Shalamar, Kenny Loggins, Donna Summer, Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes, Nicolette Larson, Linda Ronstadt, Patti Austin, Anita Baker and Toto, just to name a few. It was inevitable that the two would eventually collaborate.


Actually, it wasn’t that eventual. “Yah Mo B There” was the second single from Ingram’s debut solo album “It’s Your Night”. Of course, Ingram was already a Grammy winning success story at that point, due to “Just Once” and “One Hundred Ways”, his featured spots on Quincy Jones’ “The Dude” album. McDonald was only a year or so removed from his lead singer’s spot in the Doobie Brothers and had only released his own debut solo album a few months before. The result was a smash: “Yah Mo B There” reached the Top 15 on the pop charts, Top 5 R&B, and won the pair a Grammy for “Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group”. It was Ingram’s third Grammy as a solo artist, McDonald’s second.

The song itself screams “Eighties”, with a hypnotic, synthesized beat. Rod Temperton, the former Heatwave member who wrote many of The King of Pop’s biggest hits, co-penned this track, while the legendary Quincy Jones produced.  Both men were at this time riding high off the success of “Thriller” (in which Ingram was also a participant, having co-written “P.Y.T”. Thematically, it comes thisclose to being gospel. “Yah”, of course, being shorthand for “Yahweh”. Ingram purposefully fudged with the spelling of the title phrase so as not to scare off pop listeners from it’s fairly explicity spiritual message.

One person they definitely didn’t scare off was me. Ingram and McDonald both give phenomenal performances, full of passion. They’ve not always given themselves the best material, but they scored here. Over twenty years later, this song still moves me. Not to sermonize at all, but even as an occasionally lapsed Catholic (maybe even more because of that) this song’s message resonates with me especially when I’m going through dark patches. Both the song and it’s video make clear that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

Although this video version is of a slightly inferior remix (what’s up with the percussion tracks?), the power of the song’s message rings as clear as the voices that sing it. Well, maybe those voices aren’t so clear. I can never figure out what the men are singing after they vocalize the title (folks say it’s “up and over”, but it sure doesn’t sound like it)