This amazing duo has now been cut down to one. Condolences go out to Valerie, his family, and friends. Ashford and Simpson wrote and produced my favorite Diana Ross album. I’ll be posting a song later. This is a sad day.
So, I decided instead of posting Diana’s most popular song from the album, I would post the one I loved the most. This song is absolutely beautiful and I think of all Diana’s songs, one of the most telling about her as a person.
It’s a beautiful song, with beautiful lyrics and you guys should give it a listen.
NEW YORK (AP) – Nick Ashford, one-half of the legendary Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, has died at age 70.
His longtime friend and former publicist Liz Rosenberg told the Associated Press that Ashford — who along with wife Valerie Simpson wrote some of Motown’s biggest hits — died Monday in a New York City hospital. He had been suffering from throat cancer and had undergone radiation treatment.
My heart aches right with the horrible news that one of the most beautiful examples of love and the most prolific writers of love songs has died. The one half of the loving duo of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. May Nick Ashford R.I.P.
The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 07: 1967 (disc 34)
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Tamla T-54149, 1967)
Yesterday, a rememberance post for Jerry Leiber; today one for Nick Ashford, half of another great songwriting duo.
That duo was Ashford & Simpson–Ashford and Valerie Simpson were together for nearly 50 years (they married in 1974 but began dating in 1963). They were successful performers in their own right during the 70s and 80s, but they built their name writing for other people, notably Ray Charles and the Fifth Dimension. They became staff writers at Motown in 1966.
Motown asked them to write duets for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and they did, sort of. The two of them had actually already written “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” when they were trying to make it writing songs in New York City.
Ashford brought the song to the Funk Brothers to cut a demo and played it for Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua, who loved it. Kim Weston, Marvin Gaye’s erstwhile duet partner, had left Motown, and 21-year-old Tammi Terrell, who had already released two solo singles for the label, was made his new partner.
It was an inspiring pairing, in spite of the gulf in age and experience between the two of them (and it ended tragically when Terrell collapsed in Gaye’s arms on stage, the first overt symptom of a terminal brain tumor that took her life in 1970).
When it was released, the song hit the top 20, and Ashford & Simpson had instant credibility around the Motown offices. It helped that they followed it up with “You’re All I Need To Get By,” “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” and “Your Precious Love.”
Part of songwriting is understanding the tools at your disposal. If it’s you and an acoustic guitar, you learn to write for your own voice, your instrument. When you’re writing for other people, it requires you to listen, to understand that person’s instrument. Ashford and Simpson were good listeners. They picked up on the way their singers approached a melody and how they blended. Their ability to listen led to some of the finest pop singles of their era.
Ashford died Monday from throat cancer. He was 70.