Ashford & Simpson Biography

Nickolas ‘Nick’ Ashford (4 May 1942, Fairfield, South Carolina, USA) and Valerie Simpson (b. 26 August 1946, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA). This performing and songwriting team met in the choir of Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church. Having recorded, unsuccessfully, as a duo, they joined another aspirant, Jo ‘Joshie’ Armstead, at the Scepter Records / Wand Records label where their compositions were recorded by Ronnie Milsap (‘Never Had It So Good’), Maxine Brown (‘One Step At A Time’), the Shirelles and Chuck Jackson. Another of the trio’s songs, ‘Let’s Go Get Stoned’, gave Ray Charles a number 1 US R&B hit in 1966. Ashford and Simpson then joined Holland/Dozier/Holland at Motown Records where their best-known songs included ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’, ‘You’re All I Need To Get By’, ‘Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand’ and ‘Remember Me’. Simpson also began ‘ghosting’ for Tammi Terrell when the latter became too ill to continue her partnership with Marvin Gaye, and she sang on part of the duo’s Easy album.

In 1971 Simpson embarked on a solo career, but two years later she and Ashford were recording together for Warner Brothers Records. A series of critically welcomed, if sentimental, releases followed, but despite appearing on the soul chart, few crossed over into pop. However, by the end of the decade, the couple achieved their commercial reward with the success of ‘It Seems To Hang On’ (1978) and ‘Found A Cure’ (1979). At the same time their production work for Diana Ross (The Boss) and Gladys Knight (The Touch) enhanced their reputation. Their status as imaginative performers and songwriters was further assured in 1984 when ‘Solid’ became an international hit single.

Although their commercial success had dried up by the end of the 80s, Ashford and Simpson, who were married in 1974, remain one of soul’s quintessential partnerships. In 1996 they collaborated with poet Maya Angelou on Been Found, and received The Founder’s Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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