Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson had staff positions at Motown, where they wrote and produced hits for Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross. During their stay at Motown, Valerie released a couple of solo albums which flopped, prompting her and Ashford to leave in 1973. From then on, the duo concentrated on making their own records, though they also penned Chaka Khan’s hit “I’m Every Woman”, before finally achieving recognition as artists in their own right.
After Ashford and Simpson departed from Motown Records, their operating base for recording and song-writing became Sigma Sound Studios in New York City. They had a prolific run of hit recordings, both as a recording act and a music production team. Their production company Hopsack & Silk Productions Inc. was based in New York City. As recording artists, they were under contract for their first three gold-certified studio albums to Warner Brothers Records.
Their first studio album to receive a gold award was “Send It” (1977). The album featured Paul Riser (Motown’s famous strings arranger) on arrangements, with several top New York City session musicians, including Eric Gale (guitar), Ralph McDonald (percussion), Ray Chew (Clavinet), Christopher Parker (drums) and Francisco Centeno (bass).
“Is It Still Good To Ya” (1978) became their second studio album to obtain gold certification in America from the RIAA. Once again Paul Riser conducted strings and horns, with Ralph MacDonald (percussion), Ray Chew (electric piano), Eric Gale (guitar), Valerie Simpson (piano) and John Davis on horn arrangements. The album was a great success for Ashford and Simpson, reaching the number one position on the Billboard Soul and R&B Albums Chart week-ending 21st October 1978 (1 week).
“Stay Free” was Ashford and Simpson’s final gold album for Warner Brothers. All three gold albums featured some of New York City best background vocalists, such as Yolanda McCullough and Raymond Simpson. The sound engineers on these albums were Carla Bandini, Craig Michaels and Mike Hutchinson.
In 1979 Diana Ross collaborated once again with her long-time friends Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, whom she hadn’t worked with since her silver-certified studio album “Surrender” in the early 1970s. Ashford and Simpson co-wrote and co-produced “The Boss”, an RIAA gold-certified studio album. The title single “The Boss” became a number one hit on the Billboard Dance Singles Chart, week-ending 25th August 1979 (2 weeks).
They had further success with the late Teddy Pendergrass on his 1980 multi-platinum solo album “TP” as co-producers and writers of two tracks on the album. “TP” is the fourth album by Soul and R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass. It reached number fourteen on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and also charted at number three on the Billboard Soul and R&B Albums Chart in 1980.
Ashford and Simpson married in 1974. They effectively had two careers together, as song-writers/producers and as performers. The were outstanding in both!!