Nick Ashford of Ashford & Simpson has died

Nick Ashford, who with wife Valerie Simpson wrote hit Motown songs such as Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand and I’m Every Woman, has died from throat cancer at the age of 70.

Ashford, from Michigan, met Valerie Simpson, from the Bronx, in a Harlem church in 1964 when he was 21 and she was 17. Ashford had initially decided to move to New York to start a dancing career. Instead, 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 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.

Diana Ross performed Ashford & Simpson songs

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.”

Simpson admitted that she had doubts about getting married initially, but then 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 are mourning the artist. 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.’

[adsense]In the mid-’90s, the couple opened the Sugar Bar in Manhattan, where they frequently performed their own songs. 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.

As well as his wife, Ashford leaves behind his daughters Nicole and Asia.

Click here to find out more about throat cancer. Celebrities who have battled throat cancer include Michael Douglas and George Harrison of the Beatles.

Images: Live at J&R on flikr and Wikipedia