The public and the music industry were shocked and saddened by news of the passing of Nick Ashford, half of the prolific Nick Ashford-Valerie Simpson songwriting, producing and performing team.
On Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, one of the greatest songwriters in the history of recorded music was lost with the passing of Nickolas Ashford, half of the prolific husband and wife team of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.
Ashford, who was, somewhat surprisingly, 69 years old, lost a courageous battle with throat cancer.
Ashford and Simpson, who had been married for nearly four decades and were one of the industry’s most admired couples, both for the sincerity of their relationship and its duration, composed some of the greatest and most loved songs of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Among the most noteworthy was the classic “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” first a smash for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and then, with a completely different arrangement, for Diana Ross.
Also, “I’m Every Woman” (Chaka Khan), “Your Precious Love,” “You’re All I Need To Get By” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “The Boss” (Diana Ross) and the less often remembered “Destination Anywhere” (the Marvelettes).
In addition, as Ashford & Simpson they scored with many hits of their own, including “It Seems to Hang On,” “Don’t Cost You Nothing,” “Street Corner,” ““Is It Still Good to Ya?” and, especially, “Solid.”
Their first major success was an unusual song recorded by Ray Charles titled “Let’s Got Get Stoned,” that reached No. 1 on national R&B charts in 1966 and went Top 40 Pop.
Shortly thereafter, they came to the attention of Motown Record Corp. and were chosen to write and produced the first solo records by Diana Ross who had just left the Supremes.
They left Motown in 1974, signing first with Warner Bros. and then Capitol.
Among the other artists who have recorded their songs are Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Deniece Williams, Whitney Houston, Al Jarreau and Randy Crawford.
Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who met at White Rock Baptist Church in New York, were voted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
In addition to his wife, Nickolas Ashford’s survivors include their two daughters. — SVH