Saturday Reads: Remembering the Soundtrack to the ’60s, and Other News

Husband and wife singer songwriting team Goffin and King rehearse during a recording session in a New York studio in 1959. (h/t NY Daily News)

Husband and wife singer songwriting team Goffin and King rehearse during a recording session in a New York studio in 1959. (h/t NY Daily News)

Good Morning

On Thursday we lost another 1960s music great; Gerry Goffin, who wrote lyrics to Carole King’s music died at 75. The talented couple wrote the songs that accompanied my teenage years–so much great music associated with so many memories.

From the Guardian Gerry Goffin: the poet laureate of teenage pop:

Gerry Goffin, a trainee chemist who became the poet laureate of teenage pop, specialised in coming up with a great opening line to grab the audience’s attention. Plenty of people will remember the first time they heard “Tonight you’re mine completely/ You give your love so sweetly,” from Will You Love Me Tomorrow, or “Looking out on the morning rain/ I used to feel so uninspired,” from (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. But he didn’t stop there.

Buried a little deeper in those wonderful songs are the lines that really touched his young listeners’ hearts. The words to the bridge, or middle section, of that first Shirelles hit from 1960 were almost like poetry: “Tonight with words unspoken/ You say that I’m the only one/ But will my heart be broken/ When the night meets the morning sun?” And when Goffin presented Aretha Franklin with the second verse of A Natural Woman – “When my soul was in the Lost and Found, you came along to claim it” – he gave countless ordinary lovers a way to express their deepest feelings.

Misleadingly, they are often called “Carole King songs”. She wrote the tunes, and later on she would sing them when, after Goffin and King divorced, she embarked on a hugely successful solo career. But whenever King sang her own, gentler versions of the Chiffons’ One Fine Day or the Drifters’ Up on the Roof, she was still singing Goffin’s words. They were written by the man she had met when she was 17 and he was 20, and with whom she had two daughters while they lived in an apartment in the Queens housing project LeFrak City – and with whom she travelled to work in Manhattan every day at their cubicle in the offices of Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway, where they pumped out hit after hit after hit.

Goffin King

From The New York Times: Gerry Goffin, Hitmaking Songwriter With Carole King, Dies at 75:

Mr. Goffin and Ms. King were students at Queens College when they met in 1958. Over the next decade they fell in love, married, had two children, divorced and moved their writing sessions into and out of 1650 Broadway, across the street from the Brill Building. (The Brill Building pop music of the late 1950s and ‘60s was mostly written in both buildings.)

Together they composed a catalog of pop standards so diverse and irresistible that they were recorded by performers as unalike as the Drifters, Steve Lawrence, Aretha Franklin and the Beatles. They were inducted together into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 2004 the Recording Academy presented them jointly with a Trustees Award for lifetime achievement.

The couple’s writing duties were clearly delineated: Ms. King composed the music, Mr. Goffin wrote the lyrics — among them some of the most memorable words in the history of popular music.

“His words expressed what so many people were feeling but didn’t know how to say,” Ms. King said in a statement on Thursday.

A bit more about Goffin:

Gerald Goffin was born on Feb. 11, 1939, in Brooklyn and grew up in Jamaica, Queens. He began writing lyrics as a boy — “like some kind of game in my head,” he recalled once — but found he was unable to come up with satisfying music to accompany them.

He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School before enrolling at Queens College. He was three years older than Ms. King, studying chemistry, when they met in the spring of her freshman year.

He asked her to help him write a musical. She was interested in rock ‘n’ roll. They hit it off anyway, and she was pregnant with their first child when they married on Aug. 30, 1959.

Gerry Goffin

Gerry Goffin

After the couple divorced in 1968, King went on to become a singer and songwriter in her own right, although the two continued to collaborate and maintained a friendship. Goffin married again and and the couple had five children.

In addition to his wife, [Michelle] Mr. Goffin’s survivors include four daughters, Louise Goffin, Sherry Goffin Kondor, Dawn Reavis and Lauren Goffin; a son, Jesse Goffin; six grandchildren; and a brother, Al.

Goffin and King’s first hit was “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which they wrote in 1960 for the girl group the Shirelles. After the song hit #1 on the charts in 1961, Goffin quit his job as a chemist and began working full-time as a lyricist.

Goffin’s lyrics deftly touch on the doubt that lurks behind all new romances. As sung by Shirelles’ leader Shirley Owens in unflappable manner, the song doesn’t skimp on the wonder inherent in any fresh coupling. But it’s also unflinchingly realistic about the possibility that the fairy dust will dissolve at dawn.

“Can I believe the magic in your sighs?” Owens pointedly asks her paramour. In the bridge, Goffin’s words flow like champagne even as they fear the possible hangover: “Tonight with words unspoken/You’ll say that I’m the only one/But will my heart be broken/When the night meets the morning sun.” King’s melody plays a big role in the overall effect, arching high in the verses and middle eight while accompanied by strings that elegantly trip across the proceedings like moonlight dancers, before coming back down to Earth for the interrogative refrain.

In other news . . .

At Salon, Simon Malloy writes about the multiplying Republican scandals: GOP’s sudden scandal-mania: Why criminal probes and infighting are taking over the party.

It’s fashionable right now to talk about the premature end of Barack Obama’s presidency. He’s fast approaching the second half of his second term, which is historically the beginning of lame-duck season. His poll numbers aren’t what anyone would call ideal, and Republicans (in concert with some excitable members of the press) are rushing to proclaim the Obama presidency dead. “I saw a commentator today say that these polls, what they reflect, is that the Obama presidency is over,” Sen. Marco Rubio said, referring to NBC’s Chuck Todd. “And I agree with that. I think it is, in general.” Speaker John Boehner told reporters at his weekly press briefing yesterday: “You look at this presidency and you can’t help but get the sense that the wheels are coming off.” ….The funny thing is that as Republicans team up with pundits to chisel out Obama’s epitaph, the Republican Party itself is falling to pieces right before our eyes.

Yesterday’s news that Scott Walker and Chris Christie sinking deeper into their respective scandals is as good a sign as any of the GOP’s political disintegration. After Obama crushed Mitt Romney in 2012, Republicans began casting about for their 2016 redeemer, and Christie and Walker were high on the list. They won conservative hearts with their antagonism toward unions, but they had also found a way to win in reliably Democratic states. If the GOP hoped to take on candidate-in-waiting Hillary Clinton, they’d need someone who could peel away some Democratic voters. Walker had talked about the need to nominate an “outsider” like himself in 2016.

Now Christie and Walker are implicated in criminal investigations. Prosecutors in Wisconsin placed Walker at the center of a “criminal scheme” to coordinate campaign spending with outside groups. In New Jersey, the investigation stemming from the George Washington Bridge scandal is reportedly closing in on Christie himself. For both men, once considered potential saviors of the GOP, the political future looks considerably dimmer.

Read Malloy’s take on it at the link.

At FiveThirtyEightPolitics, David Wasserman has a long article on “What we can learn from Eric Cantor’s defeat.” You really need to read the whole thing, but here’s a small excerpt that deals with the contribution of public distrust of Congress:

Cantor was only the second House incumbent to lose a primary this year (the first was Texas Republican Ralph Hall), but the warning signs of discontent were abundant: Plenty of rank-and-file House incumbents had been receiving startlingly low primary vote shares against weak and under-funded opponents, including GOP Reps. Rodney Davis of Illinois, Lee Terry of Nebraska and David Joyce of Ohio. In fact, just a week before Cantor’s defeat and without much fanfare, socially moderate Rep. Leonard Lance of New Jersey received just 54 percent of the Republican primary vote against the same tea party-backed opponent he had taken 61 percent against in 2012.

Overall, 32 House incumbents have taken less than 75 percent of the vote in their primaries so far this year, up from 31 at this point in 2010 and just 12 at this point in 2006. What’s more, 27 of these 32 “underperforming” incumbents have been Republicans.1

In other words, while Congress’s unpopularity alone can’t sink any given member in a primary, it has established a higher baseline of distrust that challengers can build on when incumbents are otherwise vulnerable. And as the sitting House Majority Leader, Cantor was uniquely susceptible to voters’ frustration with Congress as an institution.

There’s much more interesting analysis at the link.

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George Will’s recent column on campus rapes is still in the news. From Talking Points Memo, George Will’s Latest: College Rape Charges Fueled By ‘Sea Of Hormones And Alcohol’.

Will explained that he took issue with the practice of adjudicating campus sexual assault cases by a “preponderance” of evidence, rather than hitting the bar of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That flies in the face of due process, he argued, and ultimately harms young men’s future prospects.

“What’s going to result is a lot of young men and young women in this sea of hormones and alcohol, that gets into so much trouble on campuses, you’re going to have charges of sexual assault,” he said. “And you’re going to have young men disciplined, their lives often permanently and seriously blighted by this — don’t get into medical school, don’t get to law school, all the rest.”

Four Democratic senators reached out to Will after his column was published to torch the conservative columnist’s “ancient beliefs.” Will said he wrote a letter back to the senators and laid out his rebuttal in the C-SPAN interview.

“What I say is that: A) I take sexual assault more seriously than I think they do, because I agree that society has correctly said that rape is second only to murder as a serious felony,” Will said. “And therefore, when someone is accused of rape, it should be reported to the criminal justice system that knows how to deal with this, not jerry-built, improvised campus processes.”

“Second, I take, I think, sexual assault somewhat more seriously than the senators do because I think there’s a danger now of defining sexual assault so broadly, so capaciously, that it begins to trivialize the seriousness of it,” he added. “When remarks become sexual assault, improper touching — bad, shouldn’t be done, but it’s not sexual assault.”

Well, we can’t have young men’s lives “blighted” by rape charges. Much better for young women to just suck it up and deal with a years of post-traumatic stress on their own and keep their complaints to themselves.

Whatever you do, don’t miss this TBogg post at Raw Story: Gentleman George Will is getting damned tired of having to explain rape to you guttersnipes.

Victorian gas-pipe and Her Majesty’s Curator of Rape To The Colonies, George Will, has just about had it up to here with you people — YES, YOU PEOPLE.

And especially you. Don’t think by closing your laptop he can’t see you, because he can.

Oh yes, he most certainly can, you loathsome wastrel.

t seems that, after explaining the ins and out of rape to you ungrateful curs, he was shocked and dismayed to discover that you promiscuous info-trollops on the intertubes are unable to comprehend the pearls of wisdom that he dispenses to the riff-raff gratis, courtesy of Ye Olde Washminster Poste.

Hush now, let Gentleman George condescend to speak down to you and try, fruitlessly no doubt, to explain once again that rape is what George Will says rape is

Now go read the rest at the link. You won’t be sorry.

This sounds like it could do some good: Google commits $50M to encouraging girls to code (CNet)

Google wants to see more women in technology, and it’s funding a $50 million initiative to encourage girls to learn how to code in an effort to close the gender gap.

Thursday night the company kicked off the Made with Code initiative here with celebrities former first daughter Chelsea Clinton and actress and comedienne Mindy Kaling.

Kaling, who emceed the event, said she has tons of ideas for apps but no idea to how make them work. She said she’d like to create a “What’s his deal?” app that takes a picture of guy and tells you whether he’s single, married, a weirdo, or what his car is like. Another idea is a Shazaam-like app for perfume.

“People my age have a million ideas for apps,” she said. “But we have no idea how to build them. Last week in the movies, I didn’t even know how to turn off the flashlight on my phone.”

Kaling isn’t alone. Women are woefully under-represented in the technology industry. Only about 20 percent of software developers in the US are women, according to the Labor Department. Last month, even Google admitted only 17 percent of its tech workers are women.

A bit more possible good news from the BBC: US sets up honey bee loss task force.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the agriculture department will lead the effort, which includes $8m (£4.7m) for new honey bee habitats.

Bee populations saw a 23% decline last winter, a trend blamed on the loss of genetic diversity, exposure to certain pesticides and other factors.

A quarter of the food Americans eat, including apples, carrots and avocados, relies on pollination.

Honey bees add more than $15bn in value to US agricultural crops, according to the White House.

The decline in bee populations is also blamed on the loss of natural forage and inadequate diets, mite infestations and diseases.

There has also been an increase in a condition called colony collapse disorder (CCD) in which there is a rapid, unexpected and catastrophic loss of bees in a hive.

So . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!

Last night, George Zimmerman, the man who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin and triggered nationwide outrage was booked on second degree murder charges and is now in Seminole County jail. He will appear before a judge this morning.

George Zimmerman arrived at the Seminole County Jail this evening, about two hours after officials announced that he will face a second-degree murder charge in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Special Prosecutor Angela Corey announced the second-degree murder charge at the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville tonight, more than six weeks after Trayvon and Zimmerman’s fatal encounter.

If convicted, Zimmerman would face up to life in prison on the first-degree felony charge. He arrived at the Seminole County jail about 8:30 p.m. tonight, greeted by a throng of reporters shouting questions.

George Zimmerman's booking photo

I’m not a doctor, but I’ve seen broken noses before. Zimmerman’s doesn’t look like the ones I’ve seen, but as I said, I’m not a doctor.

I just have a few more links related to this story. Trayvon Martin’s parents have behaved with dignity and grace during a time that for them can only have been nightmarish. Via Raw Story, yesterday, they reacted to the arrest and charging of the man who killed their son in an interview with the AP. When asked what they would do if they had an opportunity to talk with George Zimmerman.

“I would probably give him the opportunity to apologize,” said Sybrina Fulton, Travyon Martin’s mother. I would probably ask him if there was another way he could have helped settle the confrontation that he had with Trayvon, other than the way it ended, with Trayvon being shot.”

Tracy Martin, the boy’s father, said he would ask Zimmerman what his motive was.

“Why was he patrolling the neighborhood with a 9mm gun?” he said. “What was it about my son that made him suspicious? What made him decide to disobey the dispatcher, who is trained to handle 911 calls? Why does he feel his life is so altered and does he understand that he altered his own life by refusing to stay in his vehicle? Was it really worth it? Was it really worth taking an innocent child’s life?”

The right wing site the Daily Caller, which has had access to Zimmerman family members reported that George Zimmerman used the My Space handle “datniggytb.”

George Zimmerman, the Hispanic Floridian who killed black teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, had a MySpace account whose username was “datniggytb,” The Daily Caller has learned.

According to a family member whose identity The Daily Caller has agreed not to reveal for safety reasons, the “datniggytb” name is not a racial slur, but a friendly nickname that referred to George himself.

“That was an old nickname his black friends gave him,” the Zimmerman family member said. “He didn’t have an issue with the profile name.”

The family member at first denied that George had a My Space account, and later came up with the “black friends” explanation. I hope someone in the Justice Department reads The Daily Caller.

In other news, the US Justice Department has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple and three publishers for conspiring to fix the price of e-books in order to force Amazon to charge higher prices.

The announcement, made in Washington by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Sharis A. Pozen, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, capped a long investigation. The inquiry hinged on the question of whether publishers, at the urging of Steven P. Jobs, then Apple’s chief executive, agreed to adopt a new policy in 2010 that in essence coordinated the price of newly released e-books at the price offered in Apple’s iBookstore — typically between $12.99 and $14.99.

At the time, Apple with its blockbuster iPad was trying to challenge Amazon’s hold on the e-book market. Amazon, the online retail giant, had become a kind of Walmart for the e-book business by lowering the price of most new and best-selling e-books to $9.99 — a price meant to stimulate sales of its own e-reading device, the Kindle.

Publishers, looking for leverage against Amazon, saw Apple as their white knight. The Justice Department complaint, using language that could have been inspired by a best-selling white-collar crime novel, describes how executives from the publishing companies met to discuss business matters “in private rooms for dinner in upscale Manhattan restaurants,” tried to hide their communications by issuing instructions to “double-delete” e-mails, all the time complaining of Amazon’s increasing influence over the e-book market.

Ultimately, the Justice Department charges, the publishers and Apple conspired to limit e-book price competition, increasing Amazon’s e-book retail prices and causing “consumers to pay tens of millions of dollars more for e-books than they otherwise would have paid.”

Three publishers have already settled with the Justice Department. As a Kindle owner, I’ve long hoped this would happen. Steve Jobs made me pay more for books, and I strongly resent it.

Yesterday, while promoting “the Buffet rule,” President Obama used the sainted Ronald Reagan as a stick to beat Republicans with. From Raw Story:

He described for the audience the actions of one of his predecessors in the Oval Office, a president who “gave a speech where he talked about a letter he had received from a wealthy executive who paid lower tax rates than his secretary, and wanted to come to Washington and tell Congress why that was wrong. So this president gave another speech where he said it was ‘crazy’—that’s a quote—that certain tax loopholes make it possible for multimillionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary.”

“That wild-eyed, socialist, tax-hiking class warrior,” he said, “was Ronald Reagan.”

Mitt Romney is still struggling to convince women that He and other Republicans aren’t waging war on them. He’s trying to do this by accusing the Obama administration of a war on women, but he can’t articulate how that war works, according to Talking Points Memo.

The campaign faced a number of questions in [a] press call as to just how Obama’s supposed “War on Women” worked, none of which produced a direct answer. Asked by TPM on the call to explain how another president taking office in January 2009 might have affected the gender gap in job growth, Romney adviser Lanhee Chen only said that the pattern was unusual compared with other recessions and that he believed a president like Romney would have gotten different results….

Chen was pressed again by another reporter to explain why women were disproportionately affected and what “difference in policy” would have changed the equation.

“The president’s policies in general, whether it’s Obamacare or Dodd-Frank or any of the policies they have pursued have really hurt both men and women,” he said. “This president has demonstrated that he’s doing everything in his power to scare away job creators and that’s had a disproportionate impact on women. That’s just a statistical fact.”

Asked a third time to explain the origins of this gender divide and how Romney would tackle the ratio of job losses specifically, Chen again said “it is a fact” that women have suffered disproportionately but offered no specific answer.

“[Romney] would undo the damage that President Obama has done,” he said. “He would take the economy in a very different direction and, as a result of that, produce very substantial job gains and growth for men and women.”

Al-righty-then.

Dakinikat covered that story really well yesterday, so if you haven’t read her post yet, be sure to check it out.

RNC chairman Reince Priebus announced yesterday that he isn’t backing down on his comparison of the notion of a Republican war on women to a war on caterpillars. Politico:

Reince Priebus said Wednesday he has no intention of taking back his “war on caterpillars” comment that landed him at the center of criticism last week — in fact, the chairman of the Republican National Committee vowed he’d gladly “double down” on the remark.

“I’m not going to walk back — I’ll double down on it,” Priebus said on MSNBC when asked whether he wanted to walk back or clarify his choice of words. “This war of women is a fiction that the Democrats have created, and the real war on women is the war that this president has put forward on the American people by not following through on his promises, by having women disproportionately affected by the Obama economy.”

He continued, “Go read Anita Dunn’s book if you want to go read about a war on women in the workplace — go read that book and you’ll see what the White House’s record is on women.”

Yes, Obama treated women working in the White House like shit. I read Confidence Men. So because Obama is a dick, Priebus wants us to vote for the party of personhood bills, vaginal probes, and birth control bans? A plague on both their houses.

Remember “killer bees?” A beekeeper in East Tennessee was stung 30 times by “partially Africanized bees” AKA “killer bees.”

Africanized bee swarm

A swarm of as many as 100,000 bees attacked a Tennessee beekeeper last month, and genetic testing of the angry critters has now revealed that they were partially Africanized bees. This is the first time that Africanized bees have been found in Tennessee.

Africanized bees, often referred to as “killer bees,” are a hybrid cross between the bee species normally found in America and African honey bees (Apis mellifera scutellata), which were originally introduced to the Americas as a productive source of honey. But the African honey bees take over hives wherever they spread, killing the hives’ original queens and hybridizing with resident populations. The hybridized Africanized bees are significantly more aggressive than other bees and more likely to attack in massive swarms when defending their nests. Their stings are no worse than those of other bees, but the sheer number of them can create more life-threatening situations, especially in anyone who is allergic to bee stings.

According to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, genetic tests on the recent swarm found that the bees were less than 17 percent Africanized, which is why they are considered “partially Africanized.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture considers truly Africanized bees to have 50 percent African genetics.

Eeeeeek!

In related news, Africanized bees are suspected in a recent Texas swarm that attacked three people and a horse. The horse, which was observed almost completely covered in bees, later died from allergic reactions to the stings.

Finally, Connie from Orlando (AKA ecocatwoman) sent me a link to an interview that Terry Gross conducted yesterday with singer/songwriter Carole King. I grew up listening to Goffin-King songs, so I plan to listen to it ASAP. The occasion for the interview was her memoir A Natural Woman.

King, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, has written for everyone from Little Eva to Aretha Franklin to James Taylor. Her 1971 solo album Tapestry spent 15 weeks at the top of the charts, and stayed on the charts for more than six years.

But King was just 15 when she and three classmates formed a vocal quartet called the Co-Sines at James Madison High School. At night, she attended disc jockey Alan Freed’s concerts — a veritable “who’s who” of rock ‘n’ roll performers — and later set up a meeting with Freed, an internationally known rock promoter she thought could help her break into the songwriting business. Freed told her to look up the names of record companies in the phone book.

She recounts the story in her new memoir, A Natural Woman, explaining that she called Atlantic Records and arranged a meeting. Soon after, she wrote her first big hit — the Shirelles number, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?” — with Gerry Goffin, who would later become her husband.

So in honor of the woman who helped to create the soundtrack to my pre-teen and teenage years:

Now what’s on your reading and listening list today?


Two Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Songwriters Left Us Yesterday

Mike Stoller, Elvis Presley, and Jerry Leiber

Lyricist Jerry Leiber and his songwriting partner Mike Stoller wrote much of the soundtrack of my childhood and teenage years. The rest of it was probably written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, but that’s a story for another time.

When I was in junior high school, I started buying 45 RPM records, and I ended up with a huge stack of them over the years. On so many of them, the writing credit was “(Leiber and Stoller). I had no idea who those people were, but they sure made me and a lot of other kids happy back in the late ’50s and early ’60s.

Jerry Leiber died yesterday at 78. Here’s an incomplete list of artists who recorded Leiber and Stoller songs: Big Mama Thornton, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Fats Domino, Aretha Franklin, the Clovers, the Coasters, and of course Elvis and the Drifters. They even wrote a song for Peggy Lee, “Is That All There Is?”

From the NYT obituary:

The team of Leiber and Stoller was formed in 1950, when Mr. Leiber was still a student at Fairfax High in Los Angeles and Mr. Stoller, a fellow rhythm-and-blues fanatic, was a freshman at Los Angeles City College. With Mr. Leiber contributing catchy, street-savvy lyrics and Mr. Stoller, a pianist, composing infectious, bluesy tunes, they set about writing songs with black singers and groups in mind.

In 1952, they wrote “Hound Dog” for the blues singer Big Mama Thornton. The song became an enormous hit for Elvis Presley in 1956 and made Leiber and Stoller the hottest songwriting team in rock ’n’ roll. They later wrote “Jailhouse Rock,” “Loving You,” “Don’t,” “Treat Me Nice,” “King Creole” and other songs for Presley, despite their loathing for his interpretation of “Hound Dog.”

In the late 1950s, having relocated to New York and taken their place among the constellation of talents associated with the Brill Building, they emerged as perhaps the most potent songwriting team in the genre.

Here are some of my favorites:

Okay, so I love the Drifters….

Here’s one of my all-time favorite Leiber and Stoller compositions, Wilbert Harrison singing Kansas City.

This one was a huge hit when I was a kid.

Carole King, who also worked in the Brill Building back in the day “took to Twitter to pay her respects.”

“Farewell, Jerry Leiber: a legend, a friend, and a major influence on Goffin and King. Rest in peace.”


Motown songwriter Nick Ashford also died yesterday at age 70.
Ashford and his writing partner (later wife) Valerie Simpson wrote songs that were recorded by Ray Charles, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, and many more great artists.

Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson

From The New York Times:

Nickolas Ashford was born in Fairfield, S.C., and raised in Willow Run, Mich., where his father, Calvin, was a construction worker. He got his musical start at Willow Run Baptist Church, singing and writing songs for the gospel choir. He briefly attended Eastern Michigan University, in Ypsilanti, before heading to New York, where he tried but failed to find success as a dancer.

In 1964, while homeless, Mr. Ashford went to White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, where he met Ms. Simpson, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate who was studying music. They began writing songs together, selling the first bunch for $64. In 1966, after Ray Charles sang “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” a song Ashford & Simpson wrote with Joey Armstead, the duo signed on with Motown as staff writers and producers.

They wrote for virtually every major act on the label, including Gladys Knight and the Pips (“Didn’t You Know You’d Have to Cry Sometime”) and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (“Who’s Gonna Take the Blame”).

The Guardian had a great article today on songwriting duos by Laura Barton: From Leiber and Stoller to Lennon and McCartney: the alchemy of the duo

Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford: may they rest in peace. The best way to pay tribute to them is by remembering their music. Please post your favorites in the comments, if you’re so inclined.