Nickolas Ashford was born in South Carolina and Valerie Simpson was born in the Bronx. The Ashford family moved to Michigan. Each of them sang in local churches. The two finally met in 1964 in Harlem at the White Rock Baptist Church. They recorded a few singles that year that did not do well.
They teamed up with Joshie Jo Armstead (a former Ikette) and the three of them began writing songs for artists on the Scepter and Wand labels. They wrote or co-wrote a large number of songs that other artists at the labels recorded and later the two of them wrote songs for Motown artists. Some of their compositions include: Let’s Go Get Stoned, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Your Precious Love, California Soul, Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, You’re All I Need to Get By, and Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).
In 1973, the duo signed with Warner Brothers Records and began recording again. They had recorded nine albums by the end of 1980, which yielded 21 singles that reached the R&B chart, including one that reached number one. They switched to the Capitol Records label for their next five albums.
Their biggest hit on the Hot 100 came in 1984 with the release of Solid. The single reached #29 on the Hot 100 and topped the R&B chart. The next year, they performed the song as part of the Live Aid concert in the US.
President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony in 2009 included a performance by Ashford and Simpson. They completely rewrote the words to Solid, especially replacing the words “Solid as a rock” with “Solid as Barack.”
Nikolas died in 2011 because of complications from throat cancer.
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