Friday, August 26, 2011

Nicholas Ashford R.I.P.

Nick Ashford, who with his wife Valerie Simpson co-wrote hits for Motown, passed on 22 August 2011 at the age of 70. The cause was complications from throat cancer.

Nick Ashford was born in Fairfield, South Carolina on 4 May 2011. He spent most of his childhood in Willow Run, Michigan. He entered the world of music through the Willow Run Baptist Church, where he sang with the gospel choir and even wrote songs for them. For a time he attended Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, but eventually went to New York to look for work as a dancer. He was homeless when he attended White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem. It was there that he met Valerie Simpson, then a music student. They started writing songs together. It was after Ray Charles recorded their song "Let's Go Get Stoned" in 1966 that they signed with Motown as songwriters and producers.

Ashford and Simpson wrote a string of hits for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing like the Real Thing," and "You're All I Need to Get By." For Diana Ross they wrote "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" and "Remember Me." They also wrote songs for Gladys Knight and the Pips, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, and The Marvelettes.

Ashford and Simpson were also performers as well as songwriters. In the Sixties they recorded songs as part of the gospel group The Followers. In 1964 they recorded a single as Nick and Valarie. During the Sixties, either separately or together, Nick Ashford and Valarie Simpson recorded various singles. In 1973 they released their first album as Ashford and Simpson, Gimme Something Real. It would be followed by fifteen more albums. In 1979 Ashford and Simpson would have a hit with "Found a Cure." In 1984 "Solid" would go to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100.  In 1996 they opened the Sugar Bar, a restaurant and entertainment venue.

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