He was tall, dark and handsome and had a sexy kind of appeal that made him even sexier as he stood next to the petite woman on the stage; she was his wife. He was lean with pretty white teeth, piercing dark eyes and long straight hair; his name was Nickolas Ashford and he was one half of the Motown dynamic songwriting singing team Ashford and Simpson. Nick Ashford died on Monday, August 22, 2010 in a New York hospital; he was 69-years old. For the past several months he had been undergoing radiation treatment for throat cancer. His musical and life partner, Valerie Simpson was at his side when he died.
Nick Ashford was born on May 4, 1941 in Fairfield, South Carolina. He moved to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a dancer. He met Valerie Simpson at the White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem in 1963. The couple started dating and writing songs together. Some of their first major successes were with some of the music’s industry biggest stars. They wrote “Let’s Gone Get Stoned” for Ray Charles and two of the all time classics “Your Precious Love” and “Ain’t Nothin Like the Real Thing for Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye. One of the songs Ashford and Simpson penned for Gaye and Terrell later became a staple song for Diana Ross that song was “Aint No Mountain High Enough”. Ross sang several other songs composed by the pair among them “The title song to her “Boss “album and a collaboration with her and others as a tribute to Marvin Gaye after his death on April 1, 1984; that song was “Missing You”.
The tall guitarist and his petite lead vocalist wife (Simpson) were married for nearly four decades. Their personal chemistry and affection was documented within the black and white notes they wrote that created the beats in between the sheets of music; their heartfelt and emotional lyrics cuddled them together. Their love and relationship inspired their music and their hundreds of thousands of fans. Their relationship was “Solid As A Rock”, it “Reached Out and Touched Us”, after all those years “It Was Still Good To Us” and even in those times “When Love Didn’t Make It Right”, we sometimes “Went and Got Stoned” but for real “Ain’t Nothin Like the Real Thing” cause it you’ve got the real thing “Its All You Need to Get By”. “Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime”, cause a “Taste of Bitter Love “is “Some Thing You Never Get Use To: because “love “Ain’t Nothing But a Maybe”.
In an industry where many lives and relationships are short lived, they did more than survive. Their work was sampled by artist by rap artists like 50 Cent. They are also credited with work on the late Amy Warehouses’ work on her single “Tears Dry On Their Own”. Their influence inspired generations. They were the recipients of dozens of honors and awards and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. They were the owners of the popular Sugar Bar restaurant in New York City. They used that venue to showcase old and new talent alike giving artists a chance to take the mike and perform.
Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson sang to us about love but they also showed us what love looked like; and from this Sistah it looked pretty darn good! The Simpsons have two daughters Asia and Nicole. Funeral services were not known at the time of this posting. Your music will always, be good to me, I am truly blessed to have heard it and am oh “So So Satisfied”.
Postscript: On Tuesday, a night designated for Jazz at the club owned by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, celebrities and friends gathered to remember the R&B legend. The club is located on 72nd Street in New York City.