August 22nd – slow on the blog front just now as the original intended audience of Offspring Abroad being largely At Home in Blighty this month. So lets get back in
the groove with a tribute to two great influences in the popular music of my generation, and due to the longevity and quality of their material, many generations to come. These two are the songwriters, Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford.
Leiber was one half of the prolific songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller, two white Jewish guys who created some of the most iconic Rhythym and Blues music of the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Their output is too extensive to reproduce here but for starters we have the Coasters hits: Charlie Brown, Yakety Yak, Searching and Young Blood, the original Love Potion No. 9 by the Clovers, Drifters and Ben E King songs by the dozen including Stand by Me, Spanish Harlem, On Broadway and There goes my Baby. Three of Elvis Presley’s most well known songs, King Creole, Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog were by Leiber and Stoller.
Cover versions of their songs are often more famous than the original recorded artist: Kansas city, James Brown, Johnny Cash with Jackson, Shirley Bassey and I who have nothing. Stoller’s legacy also includes Elkie Brook’s Pearl’s a singer (I always thought the line was Her job was annotating books , not entertaining folks – doh, me ears are alight!!), producing Stealers Wheel’s Stuck in the Middle with you and Michael McDonald’s I keep Forgetting is based on his song. What must it be like to have written the soundtrack to so many million lives?
The second loss is another giant of soul music as Nick Ashford died on the 22nd of August too. As a team with Valerie Ashford, he wrote and produced much of the output of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell 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. They also worked a great deal with Diana Ross in the Seventies writing and producing almost all her material of that period including Reach out and Touch, Aint no Mountain high enough and Surrender.
You are also listening to Nick Ashford when you hear Gladys Knight’s Bourgie, Bourgie, The Supremes’ Some things you never get used to, The Marvellettes, Destination Anywhere and Chaka Khan’s I’m Every Woman. You can even credit his involvment with Amy Winehouse’s Tears dry on their own as it sampled Aint No Mountain High Enough. Ashford And Simpson supplied Motown with a series of romantic love songs acting as a counterpoint to some of the edgier and harder stuff from Norman whitfield and Holland Dozier Holland. Another great made immortal by his music.