Nick Ashford of Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson passes away at age 70

Nick Ashford of Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson passes away at age 70
Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

Famed Motown songwriter and producer, Nick Ashford passed away yesterday at the age of 70 years old.

Known best as half of the songwriting duo, and later, husband and wife team, Ashford & Simpson, the two were one of the most important songwriting teams in Motown history.

Although many commonly associate Ashford & Simpson with "Solid As A Rock", their hit duet from 1984, Ashford and Simpson as a songwriting team penned such hits as "Aint No Mountain High Enough", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", and "California Soul".

1967...A time in Motown history when two types of beats ruled the record players, funk and romantic duets, Ashford & Simpson wrote some of the best lyrics for artists like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, including "Your Precious Love" and "You're All I Need to Get By".

In 1970, Diana Ross rerecorded "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", making it a #1 hit and also a breakout song for Ms. Ross' first solo album and still one of Ms. Ross' most famous solo tunes to date.

“They had magic, and that’s what creates those wonderful hits, that magic,” Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire told The Associated Press after learning of his friend’s death. “Without those songs, those artists wouldn’t have been able to go to the next level.”

Having moved to New York after being raised in Michigan, Ashford first made a go in New York City as a dancer.  He met Ms. Simpson at White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem in 1964, where she was studying music.

Their big break came in 1966 when Ray Charles sang a song the duo wrote with Joey Armstead, "Let's Go Get Stoned". After the song made a mark, Ashford & Simpson were signed on as Motwon staff writers and producers. That song went on to be covered by the likes of Joe Cocker, Big Momma Thornton and the Derek's Truck Band.

During their time at Motown, they wrote hits for nearly every major act on the label, including Gladys Knight and the Pips and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.  However, while writing for Motown, Ashford and Simpson nursed a desire to perform, which Berry Gordy Jr., was strongly against.  Ashford & Simpson left the label in 1973 and married in 1974.

Ashford & Simpson’s initial collaborations were shaky, but their hits usually found their place on the charts. Their biggest and best known hit was "Solid".  A single which reached No. 12 on the pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1984.

There is something quite sad when someone like Nick Ashford dies, it's the end of an era in a sense.  It seems lately to be a gradual end. Music, as I knew it is slowly passing away.

Ashford & Simpson wrote songs that have touched lives, defined many love stories and thankfully, left a mark that Motown fans will always remember. When it comes down to it, Nick Ashford was a blessed man; He got to spend his life making beautiful music with a woman he loved, and there "Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby. Nothing like the real thing".

 

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