Timeless Soul

Nick Ashford was born in Fairfield, South Carolina, and Valarie Simpson was born in the Bronx in New York City. They met at Harlem‘s White Rock Baptist Church in 1963, and developed a musical partnership as songwriters and performers that spanned five decades.

After recording unsuccessfully as a duo in the early 1960s, Ashford and Simpson collaborated with former Ikettes member Joshie Armstead at Scepter records. At Scepter, they wrote songs which were recorded by a variety of artists including Ronnie Mislap (“Never Had It So Good”) and Maxine Brown (“One Step At A Time”). They wrote the 1966 Ray Charles hit “Lets Go Get Stoned.”

Their work with Ray Charles brought them to the attention of Motown Records chief Berry Gordy, Jr. Motown quickly signed the couple in 1966 as staff writers and producers for its record label for artists such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

Ashford and Simpson were paired with the vocal duo of Gaye and Terrell and produced many of their hit songs including “Your Precious Love” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need To Get By.”

Ashford and Simpson produced a series of pop hits for Diana Ross, formerly of the Supremes, including “Reach Out and Touch Someone’s Hand, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Remember Me” and “The Boss.” Other artists with whom Ashford and Simpson worked with included Chaka Kahn and Teddy Pendergrass. They produced the 1978 pop hit “I‘m Every Woman,” recorded by Chaka Kahn. They produced two songs for Gladys Knight & the Pips, “Bourgie, Bourgie,” and “Taste of Bitter Love.” They created the 1988 R & B hit “Is It Still Good For You,” recorded by Teddy Pendergrass.

Ashford and Simpson ‘s performing career began as part of the 1960s gospel group “The Fellowing.” They recorded an album titled “Gospel Meetings” on the Forum Circle label. This LP contained their vocals along with four of Ashford ‘s compositions. This record was followed by a series of singles, including the Valarie Simpson song (I ‘ l Find You) and several Ashford songs on Glover, Verve and the ABC record labels. They appeared on the 1971 PBS show “Soul” hosted by Ellis Haizlip and sang a couple of selections from Simpson ‘s solo album.

They left Motown in 1973 after albums recorded by Simpson received poor promotion and the label refused to release and album of the duo recording of songs of other famous artists. Ashford commented about jumping to Warner Brother by saying: “We felt it was time for growth to reach out to other artists.”

Ashford and Simpson married in 1974 and began their singing career as a duo with the Warner Brothers LP (Give Me Something Real). This record was followed by a series of hit singles such as (Live Doesn’t Cost You) 1977, (It Seems to Hang On) 1978, (Found A Cure) 1979, (Street Corner) 1982, (High Rise) 1983, their biggest hit (Solid As A Rock) 1984, (Count Your Blessing ) 1986 and (I’ll Be There For You ) 1989.

In 1978, they were featured as vocalists on the Chaka Kahn hit single (Stuff Like That). Simpson appeared with Melba Moore as part of the Blood Sweat & Tears Soul Chorus on the bands Al Kooper-led debt album called “Child is Father to the Man.”

In a New York Times 1981 interview Simpson said: “A long time ago I accepted that this would be an all-consuming relationship,” “To keep it going we’ve worked out ways to get along so we don’t drive each other crazy.…

On his own, Ashford partnered with Frank Wilson to produce the big hit I’m going to Make You Love Me which Diana Ross & the Supremes recorded in collaboration with the Temptations in 1968. He also appeared in the movie New Jack City (1971) produced by Mario Van Peebles as an ordained minister.

Simpson ‘s brother were in the record industry as singers- Ray working in the Village People replacing Victor Willis and Jimmy producing the group GQ which had two hits: Disco Nights and I Do Love You.

More recently, Ashford and Simpson recorded and toured sporadically and in 1996 opened the Sugar Bowl restaurant in New York. The couple also were featured as disc jockeys in new York on WRKS. They were inducted into he Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.

In 2007 they were given written credit for Amy Weinhouse ‘s CD Back To Back for the single “Tears Dry On There Own” . This single was based on a sample of the Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell 1967 Motown classic hit “ Aint No Mountain High Enough.”

After getting for the Weinhouse single they started their performing act in small venues in New York and on the West Coast. They traveled overseas and played the Blue Note Tokyo in 2009.

In August of 2011Nick Ashford passed away a youthful looking 70 from complications of throat cancer including radiation therapy.

Valerie Simpson released a new solo album in 2012 called “Dinosaurs are coming Back.” This album featured the last recorded performance of Nina Simone, a duet with Roberta Flack and an instrumental version of “Ain ’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Robert Sondak is a vendor and a writer for Spare Change News.

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