You might not know his name. You definitely know his music.
Nick Ashford and his wife Valerie Simpson penned many Motown classics like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” as well as new jack tunes like “I’m Every Woman.”
The duo became real New Yorkers known for their class and accessibility. They presided over the Sugar Bar like it was a combination talent show, performance space and holy temple.
I revere them as artists who remained true to themselves and relevant as singers, producers, and songwriters. They wrote their own rules. Mr. Ashford remained flashy in defiance of anyone who might question his sexuality. Valerie Simpson kept using her name. They never abandoned their signature style and damn it, it looked great on them.
Many articles skip over his early struggles. Despite the plaudits, his life had its struggles. His homelessness wasn’t a lark. His faith in God was tangible. And powerful. No wonder that their soaring anthems speak to us still.
My condolences to the family, especially Ms. Simpson who once flashed me a 24K smile when I passed her on my way to the 72nd street IRT station.