Saturday, 26 April 2014


                          BLACK                 SOCIAL             HISTORY                                                                                                                                                                                                     Nickolas Ashford (May 4, 1941 – August 22, 2011[1][2]) and Valerie Simpson (born August 26, 1946) were a husband and wife songwriting-production team and recording artists.[3]
Ashford was born in Fairfield, South Carolina, and Simpson in the Bronx, New York. They met at Harlem's White Rock Baptist Church in 1964. After having recorded unsuccessfully as a duo, they joined an aspiring solo artist and former member of the IkettesJoshie Jo Armstead, at the Scepter/Wand label, where their compositions were recorded by Ronnie Milsap ("Never Had It So Good"), Maxine Brown ("One Step At A Time"), as well as the Shirelles and Chuck Jackson. Another of the trio's songs, "Let's Go Get Stoned", gaveRay Charles a number one U.S. R&B hit in 1966. That same year, Ashford & Simpson joined Motown, where their best-known songs included "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "You're All I Need To Get By", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)". Ashford and Simpson wrote many other hit songs, including Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman" (1978) and Teddy Pendergrass's "Is It Still Good to You?". As performers, Ashford & Simpson's best-known duets are "Solid (As a Rock)" (1984 US and 1985 UK) and "Found a Cure" (1979). The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Ashford and Simpson were also recipients of The Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award in 1999, and ASCAP's highest honor, the Founder's Award, which they received in 1996.[4][5]



The duo essentially had two careers: one as a successful writing and producing team and the other as singers and performers themselves. They started their career in the mid-1960s, writing for artists such as The 5th Dimension ("California Soul"), Aretha Franklin ("Cry Like A Baby"), and Ray Charles ("Let's Go Get Stoned" and "I Don't Need No Doctor"). Their work with Charles brought them to the attention of Motown chief Berry Gordy.
Upon joining the Motown staff in 1966, Ashford & Simpson were paired with the vocal duo Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and they wrote and/or produced all but one of the late-1960s Gaye/Terrell singles, including hits such as the original version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Your Precious Love", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", and "You're All I Need to Get By". According to Gaye in the book Divided Soul, Simpson did most of the vocals on the last album he did with Terrell, Easy, as a way for Terrell's family to have additional income as she was battling an ultimately fatal brain tumor. Though Louvain Demps, singer of The Andantes, has stated that she saw Terrell recording the album, Simpson is quoted as saying, in a book written by Terrell's sister Ludie Montgomery, what they saw was her singing the guide tracks for the album, which were later replaced by Tammi's own vocals.
Ashford & Simpson wrote and produced almost all the songs on three 1970s albums for former Supreme Diana Ross, including her first solo album Diana Ross ("Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)"[6] and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"), Surrender ("Remember Me"), and The Boss. All three albums were critically acclaimed with "Diana Ross" her 1970 album debut and "The Boss" being certified platinum and "Surrender" certified Gold.
Other Motown artists whom Ashford & Simpson worked with include Gladys Knight & The Pips ("Didn't You Know You'd Have to Cry Sometime", "Landlord", "Bourgie, Bourgie", and "Taste of Bitter Love"), Smokey Robinson & The Miracles ("Who's Gonna Take the Blame"), The Marvelettes ("Destination:Anywhere"), The Supremes ("Some Things You Never Get Used To"), and The Dynamic Superiors ("Shoe, Shoe Shine").
Other artists with whom Ashford & Simpson had hits were Teddy Pendergrass ("Is It Still Good to You"), The Brothers Johnson ("Ride-O-Rocket"), Chaka Khan, both on her own ("I'm Every Woman" and "Clouds"), and with Rufus ("Keep It Comin'" and "Ain't Nothin' But a Maybe").


Ashford & Simpson's career as recording artists began in the early 1960s as part of the gospel group The Followers, with whom they recorded the album Gospel Meeting (on Forum Circle), later issued as Meetin' The Followers (on Roulette Records). The LP contains their vocals and also four Ashford compositions. In 1964, they recorded "I'll Find You", as "Valerie & Nick". That was followed by several obscure singles recorded by Ashford on the Glover, Verve and ABC labels, such as "It Ain't Like That" (later recorded byMartha Reeves & The Vandellas), "California Soul", and "Dead End Kids", backed by his own version of "Let's Go Get Stoned". After concentrating on working with other artists, Simpson was the featured soloist on the songs "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "What's Going On" on the Quincy Jones albums Gula Matari in 1970, and its follow-up,Smackwater Jack. Simpson subsequently recorded two solo LPs for MotownValerie Simpson Exposed in 1971, and, the following year, Valerie Simpson, which included the single "Silly, Wasn't I", which was later sampled on 50 Cent's "Best Friend" from the movie Get Rich or Die Tryin'. The song was also sampled by 9th Wonder on Murs's "Silly Girl" in the album Murray's Revenge. Ashford & Simpson were featured singing selections from Simpson's solo albums on the PBS TV show Soul!, hosted by Ellis Haizlip in 1971. In 1973, they left Motown after the albums Simpson recorded for the label received poor promotion and the company refused to release an album of the duo recording a collection of their most famous songs for other artists.
In 1974, Ashford & Simpson married and resumed their career as a duo with the Warner Bros. album Gimme Something Real. This was followed by the hit singles "Don't Cost You Nothin'" (1977), "It Seems to Hang On" (1978), "Is It Still Good to Ya" (1978), "Found a Cure" (1979), "Street Corner" (1982), and their biggest hit, "Solid (As a Rock)", released in 1984.
In 1978, they were featured as vocalists, along with Chaka Khan, on the hit single "Stuff Like That" from Quincy JonesSounds... And Stuff Like That album and contributed to the writing of the soundtrack to The Wiz.
Simpson appeared (with Melba Moore) as part of the "Blood, Sweat & Tears Soul Chorus" on the band's Al Kooper-led debut album on Columbia Records, Child Is Father to the Man.
On his own, Ashford (along with Frank Wilson), produced the hit "I'm Gonna 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 (1991), as Reverend Oates, an ordained minister who was part of Nino Brown's entourage.
Simpson's brothers were in the record business as well: Ray Simpson replaced Victor Willis in the Village People and their brother Jimmy Simpson produced the group GQ (which had big hits with "Disco Nights" and "I Do Love You"), and was in great demand as a mixing engineer during the disco era.

Recent years and Ashford's death

In recent times, Ashford & Simpson recorded and toured sporadically, and in 1996, they opened a restaurant and live entertainment venue, Sugar Bar in New York City, which has an open mic on Thursday nights, where performers have included Queen Latifah and Felicia Collins. They recorded the album Been Found with poet Maya Angelou in 1996. Around that time, they were also featured disc jockeys on New York radio station WRKS.
On August 16, 2006, Playbill Online reported that they were writing the score for a musical based on E. Lynn Harris's novel Invisible Life.[7] In January 2007, they, along with Tina TurnerMary J. BligeMariah CareySidney Poitier, director Spike Lee, and comedian Chris Rock accompanied Oprah Winfrey when she opened her Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
They were given writing credit on Amy Winehouse's 2007 CD Back to Black for the single "Tears Dry on Their Own". The track is based on a sample of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's 1967 Motown hit "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". They had begun performing their act in small, intimate venues, such as Feinstein's at the Regency in New York and the Rrazz Room in San Francisco, and in January 2009, they released a CD and DVD of their live performances titled The Real Thing. On June 22, 2009, they made a guest performance at a party at Tribeca Rooftop, New York, to celebrate Virgin Atlantic's birthday party. They also made their first appearance in Tokyo, Japan, in November 2009, and performed eight shows in four days at Blue Note Tokyo.
At President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration, Ashford and Simpson rewrote their song, "Solid (as a Rock)", as "Solid as Barack". They dedicated it to him at his inaugural festivities.
Ashford died in a New York City hospital on August 22, 2011, of complications from throat cancer. His publicist, Liz Rosenberg, said that he had undergone radiation therapy to treat his illness.[8][9]
Simpson released a new solo album in June 2012, called Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again, that also features the last recorded performance of Nina Simone, a second duet withRoberta Flack and an instrumental version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".

Personal life[edit]

Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson have two daughters, Nicole (born in 1975), and Asia (born in 1987).[10] Nicole graduated from Wesleyan University in 1997.[11]



Valerie Simpson[edit]

YearAlbumChart positions[12]Record label
1972Valerie Simpson16250
1977Keep It Comin'
2012Dinosaurs Are Coming Back AgainHopsack & Silk

Ashford & Simpson[edit]

YearAlbumChart positions[13]US
Record label
1973Gimme Something Real15618Warner Bros.
1974I Wanna Be Selfish19521
1976Come as You Are18935
1977So So Satisfied18030
Send It5210Gold
1978Is It Still Good to Ya?201Gold
1979Stay Free233Gold
1980A Musical Affair388
1982Street Opera455Capitol
1986Real Love7412
1989Love or Physical13528
1996Been Found49Hopsack & Silk
2009The Real Thing59Burgundy Records
"—" denotes the album failed to chart or was not certified


Valerie Simpson[edit]

  • 1971: "Can't It Wait Until Tomorrow"
  • 1972: "Silly Wasn't I" – US No. 63, R&B No. 24

Ashford & Simpson[edit]

YearSingleChart positions[15][16]Album
1964"I'll Find You" (credited as Valerie & Nick)117Non-album single
"Somebody's Lying on Love" (credited as Valerie & Nick)
"You Don't Owe Me Anything" (credited as Valerie & Nick)
1973"(I'd Know You) Anywhere"8837Gimme Something Real
1974"Have You Ever Tried It"77
"Main Line"37I Wanna Be Selfish
"Everybody's Got to Give It Up"53
1975"Bend Me"73Gimme Something Real
1976"It'll Come, It'll Come, It'll Come"96Come as You Are
"Somebody Told a Lie"58
"One More Try"9
"Tried, Tested and Found True"5234So So Satisfied
1977"So So Satisfied"27
"Over and Over"39
"Send It"15Send It
1978"Don't Cost You Nothing"791023
"By Way of Love's Express"35
"It Seems to Hang On"248Is It Still Good to Ya
"Is It Still Good to Ya"12
"Found a Cure"3621Stay Free
"Nobody Knows"19
"Stay Free"
1980"Love Don't Make It Right"67A Musical Affair
"Happy Endings"35
1981"Get Out Your Handkerchief"65
"It Shows in the Eyes"34Performance
"It's the Long Run"
1982"Street Corner"56911Street Opera
"Love It Away"20
1983"I'll Take the Whole World On"
"It's Much Deeper"45
1984"I'm Not That Tough"78
"Solid (as a Rock)"12115343Solid
1985"Outta the World"10244
1986"Time Talkin'"Time
"Count Your Blessings"84479Real Love
"What Becomes of Love"
1987"Nobody Walks in L.A."
1989"I'll Be There for You"2Love or Physical
"Cookies and Cake"
1990"Hungry for Me Again"40Def by Temptation
1996"Been Found"80Been Found
1997"What If"94
2001"We Are Family(with Various Artists)Non-album single

"—" denotes the single failed to chart