Both were members of song writing teams that shifted the landscape of American popular music. The titles say it all: try to imagine a world without the Leiber-Stoller penned Jailhouse Rock, Hound Dog, Stand by Me, Yakety Yak, Kansas City, Is that All There Is? Everyone from Peggy Lee to Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen (check out Ruby Baby on his solo debut, The Nightfly) dipped their toes in the Leiber-Stoller pond, giving us some of the best recordings of their careers.
In the matter of Nick Ashford, well, it’s personal. With his wife Valerie Simpson, their songs wafted through the AM radio in the Cincinnati kitchen where I came of age. What a soundtrack for my boyhood: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing, You’re all I Need to Get By, Reach Out and Touch, Let’s Go Get Stoned, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, Destination: Anywhere to name but a few. Most of those were for Motown, where they wrote alongside those miracle songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland; later they’d pen Diana Ross’s The Boss, Ain’t Nothing But a Maybe and I’m Every Woman for Chaka Khan and for themselves, Solid.
Both men died this week on August 22. RIP, and thanks.