This morning, one of the first Yahoo news stories I read was the tragic news that a Soul Legend and one half of the greatest songwriting duo of all time Nick Ashford passed away.
I first want to say, i HATE how the media is trying to overshadow this story with the lies that Amy Winehouse ‘s cause of death is still unknown. Why does Hollywood always want to sugar-coat overdoses these days!? Heath Ledger “accidental overdose” , DJ AM “acute intoxication”, Brittany Murphy “community acquired pneumonia”. Cut the crap, we know these people were junkies so stop trying to honor their images by making it sound like something nicer.
And what’s worse, Winehouse who had only released two albums will get more press coverage than Nick Ashford who spent DECADES making hits. That’s just the way the media works I guess, but I decided I wanted to give him a great tribute because he was a force when I was growing up and for decades before me. In case some of you don’t really know who he is, please read this.
Ashford was 70 years old when he passed today due to throat cancer (read a rather succinct story here). Leaving wife, and songwriting and singing partner Valerie Simpson a widow after almost 37 years of marriage. They wrote together for even longer, scoring hits for the likes of Ray Charles (“Let Go Get Stoned”), Aretha Franklin (“Cry Like A Baby”), and nearly all of the classic Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell duets (from “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”, “You’re All I Need To Get By”, and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to name a few). That’s more than a few long lasting and iconic songs under their belt. The both of them were some of the most important players in the 70’s and 60’s Soul era.
From there they continued working with the Motown crew and elsewhere, writing hit tracks for Gladys Knight & The Pips, Chaka Khan (iconic hit “I’m Every Woman”) and Teddy Pendergrass. They also helped Diana Ross emerge as a solo star in the 70’s providing her with two of her biggest hits “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. Around this same time Valerie Simpson had recorded some ill-fated solo albums, and Nick was a featured instrumentalist on various Motown projects (most famously on Marvin Gaye’s classic “What’s Going On”).Though after they got married in 1974, they decided to leave Motown and start recording under Warner.
This resulted in their career as a singing duo taking off. They scored hits like “Found a Cure”, “Street Corner” and their biggest hit “Solid”. The two continued to record, and became the first black power duo of their time. Sort of the opposite of the Ike & Tina legacy. Their love for each other showed in every single video or performance, and they became great role models for black couples. Growing up with their music, it was always nice to see them together to show us that love can be real.
And love can be profitable as well, throughout the 80’s and 90’s their contributions to the music of the 60’s and 70’s were re-made, re-mixed and sampled from acts like 50 Cent to Whitney Houston to Amy Winehouse. And they never stopped, they constantly toured together and still putting out music together. They even contributed a re-working of their hit “Solid” to Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign (“Solid as Barack”<< yes, I know that’s a lame ass title LOL!! But the point is they were still working).
It’s really sad that we have lost Nick, and my heart goes out to Valerie and their children who are no doubt suffering a great sense of mourning. Still, Nick helped to make a fantastic legacy in the R&B and Soul markets. Their music and their love will never be forgotten.
Here is an Interview I found of them that gives some of their history in the industry and with each other, and shows how much in love they were with each other. Truly Legends and Truly Great Role Models and Inspirations.
Below is a recent performance of their Iconic hit “Solid”. Enjoy!