Valerie Simpson has spent a lifetime writing chart-topping anthems for Motown and beyond with her late husband Nick Ashford as the entity known as Ashford & Simpson. The duo penned timeless hits such as, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” and “I’m Every Woman” for Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston and others before embarking on a performing career of their own.
The lyric for “Ain’t No Mountain” is real interesting because it’s not the love song that it sounds like. It’s so much more and I think the “more” is what people get and why it’s lasted through the years because there’s the empowerment in that thought.
Nick was walking down Central Park West and he said the buildings looked like mountains and he was so determined that New York wasn’t going to do him in. He came here and he was homeless, but he was determined that he was going to be a success. He said “ain’t no mountain high enough” looking at the buildings. “There ain’t no valley low enough. Ain’t no river wide enough to keep me from making it.” Then we changed it to “to keep me from getting to you.” I think people, when they’re going through something, sense that meaning that’s deeper than just “keep me from seeing you” or “keep me from loving you.” It does empower people because it was born into the lyric.—Valerie Simpson speaking to Pop Matters
Valerie Simpson is half of the songwriting-performing-producing entity known as Ashford & Simpson. Their award-winning collaborations began in the late 60s and she, along with her late husband Nick Ashford, have penned classic hits such as, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” “I’m Every Woman,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “Solid,” “Your Precious Love,” “The Boss, “It’s My House,” “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” and many others.
She serves on the board of the ASCAP Foundation where a monetary award has been established to aid struggling songwriters called the Reach Out And Touch Award which honors Nick Ashford. Valerie owns and runs a popular New York Westside Music Club and Restaurant called The Sugar Bar where young writers-singers-musicians have a platform to perform. In recent years, Valerie has toured with Dave Koz as a special guest and also with Paul Shaffer & the Worlds Most Dangerous Band. Her music is in constant demand and four Ashford & Simpson songs are featured in the Broadway hit Motown: The Musical and “I’m Every Woman” is featured in the musical The Bodyguard.
In 2018 Valerie performed as Mama Morton in a limited engagement in Chicago,The Musical on Broadway. The songs of Ashford and Simpson are in constant play through commercials, documentaries, feature films and TV shows. In 2002, they rightfully earned their place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2019, The Grammy’s presented the Trustees Award to Ashford & Simpson in a televised program adding yet a new exciting dimension to a diversified career. Valerie Simpson recently toured with Damien Sneed as a special guest in “A Tribute to Aretha Franklin” for 18 dates. She was also a special guest for Paul Shaffer for five symphony dates featuring her music.
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