Deep Dive: Ashford and Simpson

Tuesday, May 4, 2021
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Ashford & Simpson Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The year was 1964 when the late Nickolas Ashford, a singer born in South Carolina on May 4, 1941, and raised in the collegiate climes of Ypsilanti, Michigan, met Valerie Simpson, also a singer, met at the White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem. Discovering that they had a knack for songwriting, the pair started spinning off hits for the likes of Ray Charles, who took their tune, "Let's Go Get Stoned," into the top 40 to peak at #31 on the Hot 100 in July 1966. It wasn't long before they caught the attention of Berry Gordy, who quickly signed the duo to Motown. There's where they paired up with another duo, Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, supplying the pair with indelible hits including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "You're All I Need to Get By."

With Ashford and Simpson responsible for so many classic hits, here's a closer look at four of the duo's finest songs.

The 5th Dimension, "California Soul"
It was 1967 when The Messengers first released this song as a B-side. Psych-pop legends the 5th Dimension took one of the greatest songs about a U.S. state all the way to #25 on the Hot 100 in February 1969.

Chaka Khan, "I'm Every Woman"
It was September 1978 when the icon Chaka Khan stepped away from the group Rufus to go solo. Ashford & Simpson crafted the ideal debut single: "I'm Every Woman." The tune soared all the way to #1 on the R&B singles chart, peaking at #21 on the Hot 100 in December 1978. The song's influence and resonance, however, is forever #1 with a bullet.

Ashford & Simpson, "Solid"
The duo didn't give all of their hit songs away. In November 1984, they released "Solid" for their album of the same name. The biggest song of their career, "Solid" climbed to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of February 9, 1985. The #1 song in America that week: Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is."

Roberta Flack, "Uh-Uh Ooh Ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)"
Music legend Roberta Flack grabbed the Ashford and Simpson song back in 1989, with the inspired pairing crashing into the top 40 of the Hot R&B singles chart to peak at #37. The track truly found life on the dance floor, where house mixes by the likes of Steve "Silk" Hurley and Arthur Baker powered the tune all the way to #1 on the Dance Club Songs chart for the week of June 10, 1989.