Famed singer and songwriter Nick Ashford, who was the voice behind classic records such as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was laid to rest at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem New York on Monday (Aug. 29) in a fitting musical ceremony. Hundreds of mourners including Nick’s wife and best friend Valerie Simpson paid their final respects to the singer who passed away last week after a bout with throat cancer.
“I’ve got a lot to say about a great man” Simpson reflected on her husband moments after playing an emotionally filled tribute at the piano. “He was my soulmate. He was the man of my life.”
The funeral service was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday but was delayed following Hurricane Irene, which impacted the tri-state area.
Famed Pastor Calvin Butts presided over the funeral that also included Simpson’s close friends musical giant Roberta Flack, Phylicia Rashad, choreogprapher George Faison and actress Tichina Arnold.
“You and Nick showed so much love to people you didn’t even know” Arnold told Valerie Simpson before going into a tribute of “I’m Too Close.”
Nick Ashford was born May 4, 1942, in Fairfield, South Carolina, and was raised in Michigan, where he sang at Willow Run Baptist Church, according to The New York Times. After a brief stint at Eastern Michigan University, he moved to New York City to become a dancer, but failed to make a career of it. While living on the streets in New York, he attended the White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, where he met Valerie Simpson. The pair began writing songs together and was signed to Motown as staff writers and producers, beginning what would be a fruitful music career.
After Gordy discouraged their desire to perform their own songs, they left Motown in the early ’70s and married in 1974. They have two daughters, Nicole and Asia.
In the mid-’90s, the duo opened the Sugar Bar in Manhattan, where they still frequently performed. They also connected with a new generation of music lovers when they worked with the late Amy Winehouse on her track “Tears Dry on Their Own.” The pair received a songwriting credit for the song, which samples “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
The service ended with a musical tribute of Ashford’s most notable work that catapulted him as one of R&B musics greatest vocalists. Fellow singer Freddie Jackson led the congregation in a touching rendition of the singer’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
“I’m going to miss my honey” said Valerie Simpson. “I know he’s looking down on us. I know he’s happy.”