Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nick Ashford, Legendary Songwriter, Joins Ancestors at 70

Posted on Wed, Aug. 24, 2011

S.C. native, legendary Motown artist dead


Nick Ashford, half of Ashford & Simpson, one of the most successful songwriting partnerships in popular music history, died Monday at a hospital in New York City. The South Carolina native was 70.

Ashford had throat cancer and was undergoing treatment, The New York Times reported.

The success of Motown Records in the ’60s can be attributed, in part, to the songs written by Ashford & Simpson who later sang hits as performers.

In 1966, Ray Charles scored a hit with Ashford & Simpson’s “Let’s Go Get Stoned.” That led to a deal with Motown and working with Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye before Gaye found his songwriting voice on the 1971 album “What’s Going On.” Ashford & Simpson penned indelible hits such as “Your Precious Love,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” for the duo.

When Diana Ross broke from The Supremes in 1970 to establish a solo career, Motown contracted with Ashford & Simpson to assure a smooth transition. The first single of Ross’ self-titled debut was the memorable “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” which was followed by a remake of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” The latter reached No. 1.

Ashford & Simpson headlined the 2010 “Legends Of ...” concert, the annual fundraiser for the Auntie Karen Foundation, a charitable corporation that seeks to educate through the arts. They were able to write hits, including Chaka Khan’s breakout “I’m Every Woman,” with what seemed like ease. but who were they writing for? For the singers, themselves or just for art’s sake?

“All three ways,” Ashford told The State in an interview. “Most of the time we write for the love of writing and hope someone (likes it).”

Nickolas Ashford was born in Fairfield County and raised in Willow Run, Mich. He met Valerie Simpson at White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem. They married in 1974, a year after leaving Motown.

As performers, Ashford & Simpson scored their biggest hit in 1984 with “Solid,” a song that reached No. 1 on the R&B chart and No. 12 on the pop charts.

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