Motown songwriter Nick Ashford passes away

August 25, 2011 by Amy Gold

Ashford and Simpson album cover
Ashford and Simpson ca. 1970s.

Nick Ashford (May 4, 1941 - August 22, 2011), best known as one half of the famed Motown songwriting team known as Ashford & Simpson, died at age 70 in New York on August 22, 2011 after battling throat cancer. He is survived by two daughters and Valerie Simpson, his wife and long-time collaborator.

He was born Nickolas Ashford on May 4, 1941, in Fairfield, SC. In the early 1960s, he and future wife Valerie Simpson, who was a music student at the time, met at Harlem's White Rock Baptist Church and began their collaboration which spanned over four decades. Besides songwriting, they also produced for other artists and had recording careers both separately and together. Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson married in 1974.

In 1966, Ashford & Simpson had their first major songwriting success with Ray Charles's "Let's Go Get Stoned" which became a #1 R&B hit. That same year, they joined Motown's staff and penned many of the label's greatest hits. They wrote and produced most of the Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell hits of the late 1960s, including "You're All I Need To Get By," "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," and the majestic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" which later also became a hit for Diana Ross. Ashford & Simpson wrote and produced most of the songs for the Diana Ross albums, "Diana Ross" (1970), "Surrender" (1971) and "The Boss" (1979). Other bands and artists for whom the duo also wrote songs included (to name a few) the 5th Dimension ("California Soul"), Aretha Franklin ("Cry Like A Baby"), and Chaka Khan ("I'm Every Woman"). As recording artists, Ashford & Simpson also had a long string of hits on both the R&B and pop/rock charts from 1974-1997 that included the smash hit, "Solid," which topped the R&B charts in 1984.

Ashford & Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.