Wrote smash hits for Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye
Gave us "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand"
Since the beginning of their career together over 30 years ago, Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson have become one of the most prolific and versatile musical couples in recording history. Combining skills as performers, songwriters, and producers, they have created an unprecedented catalog of chart-topping hit singles and albums, collecting 22 gold and platinum records and more than 50 ASCAP Awards.
The couple met in 1964 at the White Rock Baptist Church in New York City. Nick had come to New York to pursue a dance career and Valerie was playing piano and singing with the church's legendary choir. Nick joined the choir and the two began writing pop songs for fun. Word of the talented duo spread quickly and Ashford & Simpson sold their first batch of songs for $64. A career was born.
As staff songwriters for Sceptor Records, Nick and Valerie wrote Ray Charles's classic "Let's Go Get Stoned" in 1964, which brought them to the attention of Motown where they wrote their second smash "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. Other Gaye/Terrell hits followed including "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," and "You're All I Need to Get By."
Ashford & Simpson signed with Warner Brothers in 1973 as recording artists and recorded eight albums, four of which went gold. Their numerous hit singles include "Send It," "Found A Cure," "Don't Cost You Nothing," "It Seems To Hang On," and "Love Don't Make It Right." In addition to their own growing catalog of songs, Ashford & Simpson wrote and produced for Ben E. King, Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Quincy Jones and they rewrote a version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" for Diana Ross that became a #1 record. In the 80's, Ashford & Simpson signed with Capitol Records and their hit "Solid as a Rock" continues to be a signature song for the duo.
Ashford & Simpson's music has been used as themes for international events, such as the opening of the Olympic Ceremonies, and the Hands Across America theme "Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.” 1993 had everybody humming their smash hit “I’m Every Woman,” recorded by Whitney Houston for The Bodyguard soundtrack. They even performed at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, rewriting their song “Solid” as “Solid as Barack.”
According to the London Guardian, "It's one thing to write a love song, it's another to convince an audience you inhabit one.” Ashford & Simpson's stage shows captivated audiences everywhere and their songs continue to bring joy to people all over the world. Ashford passed away in 2011 after a battle with throat cancer. He is survived by Simpson and their two daughters, Nicole and Asia. Simpson continues to contribute to the world of music, releasing a solo album titled Dinosaurs Are Coming Back Again in 2012 and making a guest appearance on the 2014 album A Couple Friends.