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Gone But Not Forgotten: Nick Ashford

Nickolas Ashford, 5/4/1942 -8/22/2011
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    Nickolas Ashford, along with his wife Valerie Simpson, wrote several classic songs and scored some hits of their own during their several decade long career. Photo: Getty Images
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    Ashford and Simpson met in 1964 and after writing for The Shirelles, Aretha Franklin, and the 5th Dimension, they scored their first songwriting hit in 1966 with Ray Charles' recording of their "Let's Go Get Stoned." Then, later that year, they began writing for Motown. Photo: Getty Images
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    They wrote all of Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye's late 60s singles, including "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," and "You're All I Need to Get By".
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    According to Marvin Gaye, as Terrell succumbed to her brain tumor, Valerie Simpson allegedly supplied the bulk of the vocals on the final Gaye-Terrell album. Simpson disputes this claim.
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    They also wrote "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", most famously recorded by Diana Ross. As Diana Ross left The Supremes for a solo career, Ashford & Simpson wrote "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand" for her.
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    As they scored some R&B and disco hits of their own, they gave some of their best material to Chaka Khan such as "I'm Every Woman" in 1978, later covered by Whitney Houston. (Ironically, a young Houston sang backing vocals on Khan's recording.)
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    The cover of their 1978 album Is It Still Good to Ya with the #2 R&B hit "It Seems To Hang On". The title track was also performed by Teddy Pendergrass. Their follow-up album featured disco hit "Found a Cure".
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    Ashford and Simpson reunited with Diana Ross in the late 70s, composing much of her 1979 album The Boss. They had already worked on two other Ross releases - Diana in 1970 and Surrender in 1971.
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    Ashford and Simpson on the November 8, 1979 cover of Jet magazine.
    Photo: Jet Magazine
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    Ashford and Simpson are best remembered for their 1984 smash "Solid", which hit #12 on the pop charts and #1 on the R&B charts. At President Barack Obama's 2009 Inauguration, Ashford and Simpson rewrote "Solid" to "Solid as Barack", and they dedicated it to new president during the festivities.
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    In addition to his songwriting career, in later years Ashford also appeared in the movie New Jack City in 1991, as Reverend Oates. He and his wife were featured disc jockeys on WRKS in New York. They also opened a restaurant/performance venue, Sugar Bar, in 1996. Photo: Getty Images
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    Ashford and Simpson were given their final writing credit while Ashford was alive on Amy Winehouse's 2007 album Back to Black for the single "Tears Dry On Their Own". The track is based on a sample of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".
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    Nickolas Ashford died on August 22, 2011 of complications from throat cancer. He left behind an amazing songwriting legacy and a wife of 37 years, Valerie Simpson. Photo: Getty Images