A Special Friendship Makes Music
“Come and Join Us,” written and composed by Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter James Ingram and Roy Sakuma, joyfully captures the allure of the ukulele and Hawaii. In 2004, Ingram’s fourth appearance at the Ukulele Festival coincided with the release of this CD single, the first collaboration of two longtime friends.
The two music men first crossed paths a decade ago at the University of Hawaii track field, where Sakuma was completing laps and Ingram had just finished his workout. Sakuma, who makes friends as easily as he smiles, didn’t recognize Ingram, in Hawaii to perform at the Pro Bowl halftime show. Sakuma was so taken by Ingram’s warm genial presence and by the end of their conversation, invited Ingram and his family on a sunset dinner cruise.
Later, Sakuma went home to watch the Pro Bowl and at the start of the halftime show, he turned to his wife Kathy and said, “Hey, that’s the guy I met today!” She couldn’t believe he didn’t recognize Ingram was the artist of hits like “Just Once” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?” and “I Don’t Have the Heart”. From this pure act of aloha, a close personal and musical friendship has evolved.
During the sunset cruise, Ingram asked Sakuma about the Ukulele Festival. Taken with the idea of a concert of 800-plus kids playing the ukulele and entertainers performing at no charge for an event that was free, Ingram offered to be a guest at the next festival. Turning to his road manager traveling with him, he said, “Make it happen.”
A year after their meeting on the track, Ingram sang “Somewhere Out There” at the Ukulele Festival accompanied by Sakuma’s students on backup ukulele. Since then, he’s made return appearances. When the Sakumas send out promotional material for these events, they’re always asked, “How in the world did you get James Ingram?”
Roy and Kathy Sakuma agree their friendship with Ingram, his wife, Debbie, and their six children, is “like a dream.” They still find it amazing that a musical luminary who’s worked with greats like Ray Charles, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Michael McDonald, Linda Ronstadt, Patti Austin, Carol B. Sager and Dolly Parton wants to appear at their ukulele festival.
They like to think that’s the charm of the ukulele - it brings people together, whether they play the instrument or not.
Musician, producer, songwriter James Ingram, in a career spanning three decades, has been nominated for 17 Grammy Awards. He’s won in 1981 for Best R&B Male Vocal for “One Hundred Ways”, and in 1984 for Best Male R&B Vocal Group/Duo for “Yah Mo B There” with Michael McDonald. Ingram co-wrote “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)” one of the signature tunes on Michael Jackson’s historic Thriller album.
The Sakumas and Ingrams, linked by warm hearts and down-to-earth natures, enjoy a friendship that extends beyond the festival. Over the years, they’ve vacationed together. And the two men have often talked about writing a song about the festival. In 2003, the day after Ingram’s guest appearance with the Honolulu Symphony, they finally got together in Sakuma’s ukulele studio. Ingram took a seat at the piano; Sakuma grabbed his ukulele.
“The words just came so naturally to him,” Sakuma says, estimating they weren’t in the studio less than a couple of hours. “James hit it right on the nose with the lyrics.”
Now that you know the story behind the song, come and join us at the Ukulele Festival where “the music fills the heart with the sounds of Hawaii.”