Responsible for penning some of the great Motown gems, Ashford & Simpson's songs became big hits for icons such as Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan. Nickolas Ashford grew up in Willow, Michigan and started writing songs for the local Baptist choir in his teens before heading to Harlem with the intention of becoming a dancer. He fell on hard times though, and was homeless by 1964 when he found his way to the White Rock church looking for a free meal and befriended 17-year-old music student Valerie Simpson. Simpson had been playing the piano from the age of five and was a regular at the church, and the pair began writing gospel songs together and performing with the group The Followers when they were spotted by a music scout and were hired to write for local label Scepter Records. Things really took off when their track 'Let's Go Get Stoned' was recorded by Ray Charles and 'Cry Like a Baby' by Aretha Franklin, and they relocated to Detroit to become staff writers at Motown in 1966. They made an instant impact with 'Aint No Mountain High Enough' which they wrote for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and the Ashford & Simpson and Gaye & Terrell combination went on to craft the classic top ten hits 'Your Precious Love', 'Aint Nothing But the Real Thing' and 'You're All I Need to Get By'. When Diana Ross left The Supremes and turned solo in 1970 Ashford & Simpson were tasked with writing and producing her debut album and they came up with the elegant, gospel-pop ballad 'Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)' as her lead single, before reworking 'Aint No Mountain High Enough' into a slow-building, sensual R&B classic that topped the US charts and earned a Grammy nomination. As a duo they released their debut record 'Gimme Something Real' in 1973 and they married a year later, before they found their biggest success as performers when they reached number 20 in the US charts with the album 'Is It Still Good to Ya' and the disco-inspired single 'Found a Cure' became a popular rallying call for the gay community who were suffering the effects of the AIDS crisis. Around that time they also wrote Chaka Khan's enduring hit 'I'm Every Woman' (later covered by Whitney Houston) and 'The Boss' for Diana Ross. They continued to tour and regularly release albums as a gospel-pop double act, most successfully with 'Solid' which reached number three in the UK in 1984. They also played at the Live Aid concert in Philadelphia with Teddy Pendergrass and later at President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony and opened the Sugar Bar Lounge in New York, where they performed regularly until Ashford's death in 2011.