Ashford & Simpson

Ashford & Simpson were an American soul-pop duo from N.Y.C. comprising the husband-and-wife musical team of Nickolas Ashford (May 4, 1941 – Aug. 22, 2011) and Valerie Simpson (b. Aug. 26, 1946). The pair debuted with a standalone single in 1964, followed by a half-decade behind the scenes as staff writers for Motown. The couple began recording again in 1971, releasing two albums under Simpson’s name, followed by a run of titles as a duo.

Ashford was born in Fairfield, SC, and Simpson in the Bronx. Soon after his birth, the Ashford family moved to Ypsilanti, Mich., where Nick joined the Christ Temple Baptist Church and sang with the Hammond Singers. After graduating high school, he headed to New York to pursue his music career. He met Simpson at the White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem. They became romantic and music partners.

Ashford and Simpson first recorded as Valerie & Nick on small-press Glover, where they issued three 1964 singles: “I’ll Find You” (b/w “Lonely Town”), “Don’t You Feel Sorry” (b/w “Somebody’s Lying On Love”), and “It Ain’t Like That” (b/w “You Don’t Owe Me Anything”).

That last a-side was co-written by singer and former-Ikette Joshie Jo Armstead, who joined forces with the pair. As a songwriting trio, their songs were recorded by The Chiffons (“The Real Thing”), Maxine Brown (“One Step at a Time”), Betty Everett (“The Shoe Doesn’t Fit”), The Jewels (“Smokey Joe“), Candy & The Kisses (“Keep On Searchin'”), Mitty Collier ‎(“I’m Satisfied”), and The Shirelles (“My Heart Belongs to You”). In 1966, Ray Charles scored a R&B #1 with the trio’s “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” also recorded by Manfred Mann.

As a songwriting duo, Ashford and Simpson joined Motown, where they wrote songs for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”), Brenda Holloway ‎(“Starting the Hurt All Over Again”), The Marvelettes ‎(“Destination: Anywhere”), The Temptations (“This Is My Beloved“), David Ruffin (“What You Gave Me“), Gladys Knight & the Pips (“Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime”), and Diana Ross (“Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)”). Their composition “California Soul,” originally cut as a b-side by Milwaukee psych-rockers The Messengers, was also recorded during the late 1960s by Marlena Shaw, Gaye-Terrell, The Miracles, The 5th Dimension, and the Brazilian samba-jazz combos Som Três and Tamba 4.

While their songs were being recorded by other artists, Ashford and Simpson each tried solo careers. Nickolas Ashford cut three solo singles on Verve between 1966 and 1968, followed by “Dead End Kids” on ABC in 1970. Meanwhile, Valerie Simpson (along with Melba Moore) sang in the soul chorus on Child Is Father to the Man, the 1968 debut album by Blood, Sweat and Tears. She then released the 1971/72 solo albums Exposed and Valerie Simpson on Motown’s Tamla division. In 1973, the now-married couple signed to Warner Bros. as a duo.


  • “I’ll Find You” / “Lonely Town” (1964 • Valerie & Nick)
  • Exposed (1971 • Valerie Simpson)
  • Valerie Simpson (1972 • Valerie Simpson)
  • Gimme Something Real (1973)
  • I Wanna Be Selfish (1974)
  • Come as You Are (1976)
  • So So Satisfied (1977)
  • Send It (1977)
  • Is It Still Good to Ya (1978)
  • Stay Free (1979)
  • A Musical Affair (1980)
  • Performance (live, 1981)
  • Street Opera (1982)
  • High Rise (1983)
  • Solid (1984)
  • Real Love (1986)
  • Love or Physical (1989)


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