RIP Nick Ashford, Gifted Singer of Ashford & Simpson
Oh no. I just saw that Nick Ashford has died, and didn’t see any notice around mentioning his passing. It seems he had been suffering from throat cancer although his cause of death remains unknown.
One of the primary songwriting and producing teams of Motown, Ashford & Simpson specialized in romantic duets of the most dramatic kind, professing the power of true love and the comforts of sweet talk. In “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” from 1967, their first of several hits for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, lovers in close harmony proclaim their determination that “no wind, no rain, no winter’s cold, can stop me, baby,” but also make cuter promises: “If you’re ever in trouble, I’ll be there on the double”
They also continued to write hits for other people. “I’m Every Woman“ was a hit for Chaka Khan in 1978, and later for Whitney Houston on the soundtrack to the 1992 film “The Bodyguard.” In 1996, they opened the Sugar Bar on West 72nd Street in Manhattan, where they often presided over open mic nights. Recently, they received a songwriting credit on Amy Winehouse’s song “Tears Dry on Their Own,” which contains a sample from “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Besides his wife, Mr. Ashford is survived by two daughters, Nicole and Asia; his brothers Paul, Albert and Frank; and his mother, Alice Ashford.
Ashford & Simpson toured throughout their career, their harmony and vocal interplay illustrating the passion of their lyrics and of their life together.
“When Ms. Simpson sits down at the piano and begins to sing in a bright pop-gospel voice, unchanged since the 1970s,” Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote in a review in 2007, “she awakens the spirit and tosses it to Mr. Ashford, whose quirkier voice, with its airy falsetto, has gained in strength from the old days. Soon they are urging each other on. By the time their romantic relay winds to a close, both are sweating profusely, and the audience is delirious.”
So long Nick so smooth.