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Nick Ashford: An Obituary

Yesterday marked the end of one of those rare perfect real life love stories, as Nick Ashford passed away. 

Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson met in a church at Bronx in 1963. At that point, Ashford wanted a dance career, and Simpson was a music student. Somewhere down the line they joined as a duo ans launched their musical career.

They were not very successful.

So they started composing songs for artists largly forgotten by history, like Maxine Brown, or Ronnie Milsap. Eventually, they wrote a song called “Lets Go Get Stoned”, which propelled Ray Charles to the number one RnB spot in the US. In the same year, they duo joined Motown records. And this is where they recorded their best songs, like “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)”.

By the late 1990s, Ashford and Simpson had become identified with a rare kind of song, the ballad of mature and unshakable love. One can only assume that the duo wrote about what they knew firsthand. Although their creative partnership birthed the personal one–their marriage postdating their first composition by ten years–Ashford and Simpson truly lived and worked together.

At the century’s end they were still active as recording artists, radio personalities, and restaurateurs, (the couple owned the Sugar Bar in NYC, where performers such as Queen Latifah and Felicia Collins have sung) and their music was a staple of radio formats aimed at an older, more mature audience. 

In 2002, they were induced into the songwriters hall of fame.

Nick Ashford passed away on August 22nd, 2011, after a lengthy battle with throat cancer. Amidst all the hullabulloo over Amy Winehouse’s drug fuelled fall from grace, he died almost quietly. With a kind of dignity that does not befit this age.

Ashford is survived by Valerie and their daughters, Nicole and Asia.

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• Nickolas Ashford, songwriter and singer, born 4 May 1942; died 22 August 2011

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