Nick Ashford, one half of the duo behind Motown hits such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” passed away in Manhattan earlier this week at the age of 70 due to complications stemming from throat cancer.
Working with his songwriting partner and wife Valerie Simpson, Ashford rose to prominence as one of Motown’s songwriting/producing leaders after “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” hit the airwaves in 1967. The track served as the first of Ashford and Simpson’s first of many hits with Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye.
Other duets written by Ashford and Simpson for that pair include “Your Precious Love,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”
The writing duo also worked extensively with Diana Ross, especially on her track “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” and her first number one hit, a cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
Born Nickolas Ashford on May 4, 1991, the future music icon started out in Fairfield, SC, but was raised in Will Run, MI. His interest in music reportedly began at Willow Run Baptist Church, where he sang and wrote songs for the church’s choir.
Leaving Michigan for New York for a failed run at a career as a dancer, Ashford found himself homeless in 1964. That same year, he met Simpson and the pair began writing songs together, ultimately selling their first set of songs for a whopping $64.
The duo’s bigtime career began in 1966, when Ray Charles covered a track that they had written for Josephine Armstead entitled “Let’s Go Get Stoned.” That cover got Ashford and Simpson signed on as writers and producers with Motown Records.
Ashford’s illustrious career lead him to work with every major act on the label before leaving in 1973. Marrying to his writing partner in 1974, the Ashford then went on to work with artists such as Chaka Khan and Whitney Houston.
The legendary songwriter and producer his survived by his wife and their two daughters, Nicole and Asia, his brothers Frank, Paul and Albert, and his mother, Alice.