There was a time when you couldn’t tell me that Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell were not madly in love. The evidence, I believed, was all in the duets. “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”, “Your Precious Love”. I could go on and on. That was love on the radio.
But the love was in the writing. Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson created those iconic love songs from their incredible talent merged with thier own incredible love. It was reported that Nick Ashford died last night. We have lost an American genius.
I have been thinking quite a bit about song writers lately. Many people I know sneer at “remakes” or “covers” of famous songs. They want new artists to come up with new music. Simply re-singing an already popular song is cheating.
I disagree. It is a mistake to think that a singer owns a particular song. Someone write that song and that person deserves to have that song performed by as many people as choose to perform it. It is a real compliment to the writer that a song is beloved in the hands of multiple artists over years and years. (Did you think that Whitney Houston was singing Chaka’s Khan’s song when she released “I’m Every Woman”? That, too, was another Ashford & Simpson creation. Amazing, right?)
Songwriters are an amazing group of artists. In the world of jazz there are standards, fine pieces that are expected to be performed by a variety of artists, which much credit given to the writer. But in the world of pop music, only true fans know who wrote what. Can you imagine having your masterpiece associated not with you, but with the singer? Songwriters are the hearts and minds behind the scenes.
Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson wrote the songbook of a generation. Here’s a list. Won’t you play one of the songs today? I bet you have them in your collection. (“You’re All I Need to Get By” is a classic, be it Marvin and Tammi or Mary J and Method Man.) Or just hum a bar or two. Then, light a candle, give thanks for the experience, and say a prayer.