by Gregory Dale
Lovers whose romance was sparked and spawned to the strains of Ashford and Simpson could hardly believe the news of Ashford’s death.
Sixty-something boomers wondered when exactly he became 70 and how such a velvety voice, the substantial half of a dynamic duo could be silenced.
|NICK ASHFORD & VALERIE SIMPSON
Legendary performer Nick Ashford, who along with his wife penned a bevy of classic soul and funk hits, died of throat cancer in New York Aug. 22. He was 70.
The musician’s death was confirmed by his publicist, who told the Associated Press that he had been suffering from the illness and had undergone radiation treatment.
Ashford penned a string of successful hit records for many notable artists including Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight, Chaka Khan and Diana Ross, among many others.
Messages of sorrow from fans and celebrities alike poured in following the singer’s death. Many stars including singer Alicia Keys relied on Twitter to voice their sadness.
Philadelphia-based recording artists and fellow husband-and-wife duo Kindred the Family Soul expressed their bereavement. “The world mourns the loss of a music icon, while a wife mourns the loss of her husband and his children mourn the loss of their father. We are saddened by this news but encouraged by the example and legacy of Mr. Ashford. May he rest in peace and his music live on.”
Born in South Carolina in 1942, Ashford traveled to New York City in 1964 to pursue a dance career. Shortly thereafter, he met his future wife Valerie who sang in the choir at White Rock Baptist Church. After he joined the choir, the couple began writing pop music for fun and a musical partnership was born.
The duo received their first taste of success after penning Ray Charles’ “Let’s Go Get Stoned.” Then, powerhouse music label Motown Records tapped them to write songs for many of their artists. They soon crafted a string of soulful and stirring ballads for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”
In 1973 Ashford & Simpson were signed to Warner Brothers as recording artists and released a collection of successful albums, many of which went gold. Over a decade later, they released the single “Solid” which continues to be their signature song.
In 1996, the couple opened a trendy restaurant and nightclub aptly deemed the Sugar Bar in Manhattan, which continues to be a staple in its Upper West Side neighborhood.
Jazz musician Mark Adams, who collaborated with Ashford in the past and often performed at the Sugar Bar, spoke on the singer’s legacy. “[He] was a man with an overwhelming magnitude of infinite strength, wisdom and will,” Adams said. “He always treated people like he wanted to be treated and was one of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure to work with—a true innovator.”
Legendary production team Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff also praised him. “Nick Ashford was truly one of our favorite songwriting colleagues and producers,” their joint statement read. “He and Valerie had a major impact on Gamble & Huff’s songwriting career…we’re longtime admirers of Ashford & Simpson as one of the greatest songwriting teams ever. Nick was a multi-talented artist and he will be truly, truly missed by both of us.”
The singer is survived by his wife Valerie Simpson and two daughters.
(Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers)