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A 'Solid' Artist: Nickolas Ashford (1941-2011)


Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson

Can we please have a moment of silence for Nickolas Ashford, one-half of the talented husband-and-wife songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, who passed away on Aug. 22 after a long bout with throat cancer.

The singer-songwriter, who along with his dedicated wife, Valerie Simpson, were the most prolific songwriting tandems at Motown penning a slew of chart-topping songs for such artists as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough), Diana Ross ("Reach Out and Touch") and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles ("Who's Gonna Take the Blame").

"I am shocked and saddened to hear about the passing of Nickolas Ashford, said Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Jr. via statement. "Nick Ashford was an all-around beautiful human being. Nick will always be a great part of the Motown family and legacy. I send my love and deepest sympathies to Val and his children. I will remember his warm smile, his great heart and the wonderful songs he left us with. Despite my personal sorrow, I know we will be celebrating his life forever."

Outside of Motown, Ashford and Simpson also wrote "I'm Every Woman" for Chaka Khan in 1978, and later for Whitney Houston on the soundtrack to the 1992 film The Bodyguard.

In the '70s, Ashford and Simpson went from songwriters to performers, releasing nine albums for Motown, Warner Brothers Records and Capitol Records between 1973 and 1984. Their biggest hit during that time was their No. 1 1984 song "Solid (As a Rock)."

In terms of hip-hop, Ashford & Simpson's penned songs have been sampled by several rap artists, most notably by the RZA who used "You're All I Need to Get By" for Method Man and Mary J. Blige's classic love anthem, "I'll Be There For You/ You're All I Need To Get By." Most recently, Kanye West sampled "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" for his 2010 holiday song "Christmas In Harlem."

Mr. Ashford leaves behind two daughters, Nicole and Asia; his brothers Paul, Albert and Frank; and his mother, Alice Ashford.

A solid artist, a solid husband, a solid career. Thank you, Nick Ashford.

Rest in Power.