Nickolas Ashford (born May 4, 1942, in Fairfield County, South Carolina) and Valerie Simpson (born August 26, 1946 in The Bronx, New York) are a husband and wife songwriting/production team and recording artists. They met at Harlem's White Rock Baptist Church in 1963. After having recorded unsuccessfully as a duo, they joined aspiring solo artist and former member of the Ikettes, Josie Jo Armstead, at the Scepter/Wand label where their compositions were recorded by Ronnie Milsap ("Never Had It So Good"), Maxine Brown ("One Step At A Time"), as well as the Shirelles and Chuck Jackson. Another of the trio's songs "Let's Go Get Stoned" gave Ray Charles a number one U.S. R&B hit in 1966. That same year Ashford & Simpson joined Motown where their best-known songs included "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "You're All I Need To Get By", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)". As performers, Ashford and Simpson's best-known song is "Solid" (1984 US and 1985 UK). The duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002.
The duo essentially had two careers: one as a successful writing and producing team and the other as singers and performers themselves. They started their career in the mid-1960s, writing for artists such as The 5th Dimension ("California Soul"), Aretha Franklin ("Cry Like A Baby"), and Ray Charles ("Let's Go Get Stoned" and "'I Don't Need No Doctor"). Their work with Charles brought them to the attention of Motown chief Berry Gordy.
Joining the Motown staff in 1966, Ashford & Simpson were paired with the vocal duo of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and they wrote and/or produced all but one of the late-1960s Gaye/Terrell singles, including hits such as the original version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Your Precious Love", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", and "You're All I Need to Get By". According to Gaye in the book "Divided Soul," Simpson did most of the vocals on the last album he did with Terrell, "Easy," as a way of Terrell's family to have additional income as she was battling an ultimately fatal brain tumor. (Simpson is quoted as denying this in a book written by Terrell's sister Ludie Montgomery.)