Legendary singer, songwriter and producer Nick Ashford, husband and songwriting partner of Valerie Simpson, died at age 70 in New York City on Monday, August 22, 2011.

According to The New York Times, Ashford had been undergoing treatment for throat cancer — the exact cause of death is unknown at this time. Ashford and Simpson were the powerhouse duo who created some of Motown’s biggest hits including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.”

Aside from writing those classics, originally performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Ashford and Simpson also wrote for Diana Ross (“Reach Out and Touch” and “The Boss”), Gladys Knight & The Pips (“Taste of Bitter Love”) and Chaka Khan (“I’m Every Woman”) to name just a few of their unforgettable hits.

Nick and Valerie shaped and influenced the Black music landscape with their empowering lyrics, politically charged themes, and beautiful rhythms. Throughout their career together, they collaborated with luminaries such as Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Luther Vandross. The two were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.

Nick and Valerie met in 1963 at the White House Baptist Church in Harlem. In 1964 they formed Ashford and Simpson, recording several albums at Motown. The duo later married in 1974. Always creating and working on new projects, they contributed to the soundtrack for “The Wiz” in 1978.

They released their most famous song, “Solid,” in 1984, which is now a Black love anthem and resonates around the world. In 1991, Nick spread his creative wings and appeared on film in the cult classic “New Jack City.” The couple skillfully mixed business with community when they opened The Sugar Bar, a restaurant and live entertainment venue on Manhattan’s Upper West Side in 1996. There they hosted a popular weekly open mic night which still continues to draw crowds. That same year, Nick and Valerie recorded an album with Maya Angelou called “Been Found” and were also working as deejays on New York City’s Kiss-FM radio station.

Ashford and Simpson are revered musicians, role models and beloved friends. In 2006 it was reported that they would write the score for a musical based on E. Lynn Harris’s “Invisible Life.” In 2007, the couple accompanied Oprah Winfrey, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Tina Turner, Spike Lee, Sydney Poitier, and Chris Rock on trip to South Africa for the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls.

Nick and Valerie have been an inspirational force in our community uplifting our lives with soulful music, messages and sounds.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Valerie Simpson and family on their loss.

Nick Ashford, rest in peace…