singer-songwriter nick ashford transitioned monday at the age of 70 in a new york hospital. ashford & his wife valerie simpson formed the brilliant duo, ashford & simpson. together they penned elegant & soulful classics for marvin gaye, diana ross & chaka khan, among other artists. ashford was battling throat cancer & underwent radiation treatment.
ashford & simpson garnered their greatest success at motown with songs like "ain't no mountain high enough" & "reach out and touch somebody's hand," by ross, & "you're all i need to get by" by gaye & tammi terrell; in the early 90's, mary j. blige & method man remade the song, earning them a grammy for best hip hop duo.
the gifted pair created anthems for others, among them, "i'm every woman" by khan, which was later remade by whitney houston. ashford & simpson also triumphed writing for themselves. perhaps their best-known song was the 80's hit "solid as a rock."
after learning of his friend's death, verdine white of earth, wind & fire said, "his music is unmatched in terms of great songwriting...they had magic & that's what creates those wonderful hits...without those songs, those artists wouldn't have been able to go to the next level." on twitter alicia keys wrote, "i'm so sad that he's gone...so many of the greatest are are going to a greater place...what a legacy of infectious music...man!"
ashford & simpson initially met in 1964 in a new york city church. ashford, a south carolina native, came to nyc to pursue a dance career. simpson was a music student. after they connected the two decided to write songs together. said white, "they were always comfortable with each other & they made all of us comfortable, because they were comfortable."
their first major success occurred when they wrote "let's go get stoned" for the legendary ray charles. the bluesy, gospel-tinged song became a huge hit for charles; as such, it brought them to the attention of motown records, who signed them to write for their artists.
at motown they wrote romantic & soulful ballads for the charismatic duo of gaye & terrell. songs like "your precious love" & "ain't nothin' like the real thing" became instant classics. originally, "ain't no mountain high enough" was their hit, until ross later re-recorded it with a new arrangement fueled by sweeping pop grandeur - making it her signature song.
ross may have been their greatest muse: with her, they had some of their biggest songs & helped give her lifetime-defining hits distinguishing her solo career apart from the supremes. among the songs ross made were "reach out & touch," "the boss," "my house," & "missing you," a tribute to the late gaye & others. they also composed some of the music for "the wiz," the ill-fated movie musical starring ross & michael jackson.
in an industry where marriages & partnerships are fleeting, their relationship stood the test of time. "the thing is they were married & working together, that was what was special about them...everybody admired that," white said. married for 38 years, ashford & simpson helped sell millions of records for several artists in the midst of succeeding as their own entity. writing into the new millennium they were credited as co-writers for amy winehouse's "tears dry on their own."
the pair continued to perform, stretching more than four decades of exciting & riveting showmanship. they also were owners of the popular new york city restaurant sugar bar, where many top names & emerging artists would showcase their craft. in 2002, ashford & simpson were inducted into the songwriters hall of fame. ashford is survived by his wife & two daughters.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.