Ashford & Simpson â€” you can’t think of one without the other â€” penned and produced almost all of the ’60s hits for Motown’s Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, You’re All I Need to Get By, Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing and Your Precious Love. They also wrote hits for Chuck Jackson, The Shirelles, Maxine Brown and the Fifth Dimension.
Ray Charles’ 1966 No. 1 R&B hit Let’s Go Get Stoned was their breakthrough record. They would later write and produce Diana Ross‘ biggest solo hits, including her signature Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand). They also wrote Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman, which was later recorded by Whitney Houston.
Though they had initially performed together in 1964 as Valerie & Nick, after meeting a year earlier at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church, they didn’t fully break out as R&B stars until the late ’70s and ’80s with songs like Don’t Cost You Nothing, It Seems to Hang On, Found A Cure, Street Corner and Solid. They generated excitement onstage with the tall, leonine Ashford trading harmonies with the sultry Simpson.
Ashford, who was born in Fairfield, S.C., and raised in Willow Run, Mich., had originally aspired to be a dancer.
The couple, who had been married since 1974, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. They recorded eight albums for Warner Bros., including four that went gold, five with Capitol and two independently. Their last album, 1996’s Been Found, was a collaboration with poet Maya Angelo.
They continued to perform sporadically and frequently hosted events at their New York restaurant, Sugar Bar.