List of the Day - Archives

Nick Ashford – Profiles in Soul

List Of The Day

I wouldn't blame you for thinking that someone must be out there killing songwriters. After all, only mere hours after the announcement regarding Jerry Leiber, word came over that Nick Ashford had also died.

Unlike all those hack organizations where they keep their obits on file just in case, we here at List of the Day do no such thing. We're like a fine dining restaurant where everything is made to order. You sit around waiting a bit longer and the meal eventually shows up on a big fancy plate with a sprig of parsley strategically placed over the on-closer-inspection smaller-than-expected entrée, but we specialize in a niche clientele. You people are cultured.

Nick Ashford was one half of the songwriting team, Ashford and Simpson. Valerie Simpson was his wife and the two were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.

While they had several hits for themselves, they were best known for writing hits for other folks.

So here are ten that we need to remember if we want to do Nick Ashford right!

You'll have to remember the others on your own dime!

10) Ashford and Simpson - "Solid": "Solid" was the duo's biggest hit. Of course, in a perfect world, they'd be better remembered for "Don't Cost You Nothing" or "Found a Cure" or something they handed over to other artists such as any of the following.

9) Diana Ross - "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)": Parenthetical soul? Right ON! A&S (not the old department store) wrote a slew of tunes for all the top names in soul music. This list is starting out heavy and will get heavier.

8) Chaka Khan - "I'm Every Woman": This would also be covered by Whitney Houston for the soundtrack to The Bodyguard, an album that sold more copies than there are people. As long as A&S didn't get screwed on the business end, they likely could've bought an island with the royalties from this song. Or at least a house so big, they'd never know when the other one was home!

7) The Dynamic Superiors - "Shoe Shoe Shine": Here's a Motown group you don't hear much about, since they didn't get their recording contract until 1974 when Motown was no longer in its classic period. "Shoe Shoe Shine" was a hit in 1975, right before people stopped getting their shoes shined and started buying sneakers!

6) The Brothers Johnson - "Ride-O-Rocket": Featuring George "Lightnin' Licks" Johnson and Louis E. "Thunder Thumbs" Johnson, the Brothers were awesome with their titles. Tracks like "Get the Funk Out Ma Face," "Ain't We Funkin' Now" and "Kick It to the Curb" surely make you want to hear them. But A&S gave them the modest 1978 hit "Ride-O-Rocket," which sounds like something straight out of the Framed blog here at Y! Music.

5) Smokey Robinsons and the Miracles - "Who's Gonna Take the Blame": When people die, you learn things about them you never knew. And I don't just mean lots of dirt that people would never say if said dead person were alive. According to the New York Times obituary (and they do write awesome obits!), A&S were responsible for this Smokey R. track. I'd never thought about it before, since I always assumed Smokey wrote most of their tunes. It pays to read!

4) Gladys Knight and the Pips - "Landlord": Serious question: in this downloadable age where album and songwriting credits are a thing of the past, how will anyone know who wrote what? Will everyone scour the Internet just to learn this stuff? You're supposed to instinctively know something!

3) Aretha Franklin - "Cry Like a Baby": You write a song and Aretha covers it, you know you've reached the top.

2) Ray Charles - "Let's Go Get Stoned": Again, you write a song for Ray Charles and you likely figure you can die happy. And I sure hope Nick Ashford died happy. (Though dying from complications of throat cancer isn't likely to make anyone happy.)

1) Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough": Had Ashford and Simpson never written another song other than this one, their legacy would've been, well, solid! (you like that? I didn't even plan that.)

RIP Nick.

View Comments