Nick Ashford died of throat cancer

Nick Ashford not long before his death

Nick Ashford, who enjoyed a great career with wife Valerie Simpson during which they wrote hit Motown songs such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” and “I’m Every Woman”, died as a result of throat cancer at the age of 70 in April 2011.

Ashford, from Michigan, met Valerie Simpson, from the Bronx, in a Harlem church in 1964 when he was 21 and she was 17. Ashford decided to move to New York to start a dancing career but the pair began to write songs together and married 10 years later. Together they wrote some of the most memorable songs of the century which were performed by a wide variety of iconic artists such as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan. They even performed some songs themselves, under the name of Ashford & Simpson, including 80s hit Solid as a Rock.

In 1978, Ashford spoke to People about his marriage to Simpson, saying: “Being married is the best thing that ever happened to me. I don’t feel like I’m married. Valerie brought me around to the idea that every time you fight it isn’t the end. You can knock each other down but then you make love.”

Ashford and Simpson in action together

Ashford and Simpson in action together

Simpson admitted that she had her doubts about getting marrying Ashford initially, but slowly came round to it: ‘First he decided we should have a baby,” she said with a laugh. “Then we bought the house. I still thought getting married was, oh, so old. I wanted him to think of me as his woman, not his wife. But when I realized that I felt secure enough to allow him all the freedom he needed, we went ahead.’

Friends and fellow music industry legends mourned the artist and in a statement to the AP, Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire said, ‘They had magic, and that’s what creates those wonderful hits, that magic. Without those songs, those artists wouldn’t have been able to go to the next level.’

In the mid-’90s, the couple opened the Sugar Bar in Manhattan, which gave them the opportunity to perform their own songs live, something they did frequently.

They also connected with a new generation of music lovers when they worked with the late Amy Winehouse on her track, Tears Dry on Their Own. The pair received a songwriting credit for the song, which samples “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.

Ashford leaves behind his daughters Nicole and Asia.