Wednesday, August 24, 2011

R.I.P., Nick Ashford

One of my fave songwriters, Nick Ashford, died yesterday. Here's a brief Q&A that I did with Ashford and his wife/songwriting partner, Valerie Simpson in 2002.

Enduring love songs of Ashford & Simpson 


"You're All I Need to Get By." "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing." "Your Precious Love." Married songwriters Nickolas Ashford, 59, and Valerie Simpson, 55, have crafted some of the most enduring love songs in the pop music canon. We caught up with the team, which just released "The Very Best of Ashford & Simpson," to find out how they've kept their personal and professional partnership going for more than 27 years.

Q: You two met in 1964 at Harlem's White Rock Baptist Church. How has gospel influenced your love songs

Ashford: Gospel is a form of music where you have to tell stories in order to feel the spirit move in you. A lot of it is so spontaneous that you don't even know what's going to come out of your mouth. And that's a lot how Val and I write. She just sits down at the piano and plays. The spirit is in her hand, and it just gets to me, and something is born.

Q: What is the power of love?

Ashford: It's the one form of glue that holds people together. Because love forgives everything. When you look at a person and know that you love them, there's very little else to talk about.

Simpson: It colors everything. And the older we get, the more we can appreciate the fact that we've been able to sustain this relationship. It's probably because we started as friends and not as lovers.

Q: Mary J. Blige and Method Man covered "You're All I Need to Get By," but in general there's a lack of hip-hop love songs -- why?

Ashford: There's so much ego involved.

Simpson: And there's a lack of vulnerability. You have to stand hard, therefore you can't show a certain softness. I don't think they're ready to do that.


"The Very Best of Ashford & Simpson"

This hits package contains the duo's most keenly observed meditations on love: healing ("Found a Cure"), enduring ("It Seems to Hang On") and almighty ("Ain't No Mountain High Enough"). Nick Ashford's holy-roller falsetto provides an oddly apt complement to Valerie Simpson's sinewy, rock candy sweetness.

Grade: A

(The Atlanta Journal Constitution: February 2, 2002)

Here's a couple of my fave, underrated cuts performed and/or written by Ashford & Simpson (The list could go on & on. It would definitely include Chaka Khan's "Our Love is in Danger" if it was on YouTube.):

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