Nick Ashford, who teamed up with Valerie Simpson to write some of the seminal hits of the 1960s, has died at age 69. Ashford’s death was announced late Monday night. He had suffered from throat cancer and died in a New York hospital. Ashford and Simpson were not just a songwriting duo; they had a marriage that lasted 38 years, a rarity in the universe of glitz and glitter that they inhabited.
Their most famous composition was undoubtedly “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” first recorded by another duo, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, who also scored big hits with other Ashford-Simpson collaborations, including “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “For Your Precious Love.” The couple owned the Sugar Bar, a popular restaurant and club on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
From the article by Steve Jones in USA Today:
Ray Charles’ 1966 No. 1 R&B hit Let’s Go Get Stoned was their breakthrough record. They would later write and produce Diana Ross‘ biggest solo hits, including her signature Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand). They also wrote Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman, which was later recorded by Whitney Houston.
Though they had initially performed together in 1964 as Valerie & Nick, after meeting a year earlier at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church, they didn’t fully break out as R&B stars until the late ’70s and ’80s with songs like Don’t Cost You Nothing, It Seems to Hang On, Found a Cure, Street Corner and Solid. They generated excitement onstage with the tall, leonine Ashford trading harmonies with the sultry Simpson.
Ashford, who was born in Fairfield, S.C., and raised in Willow Run, Mich., had originally aspired to be a dancer. The couple, who had been married since 1974, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. They recorded eight albums for Warner Bros., including four that went gold, five with Capitol and two independently. Their last album, 1996’s Been Found, was a collaboration with poet Maya Angelou.
Read more at USA Today.