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In Memoriam: Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber

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Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, with Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C. and his wife Eulada Paysour. 2009. Library of Congress/John Harrington

In the Muse was sad to learn of the passing of two great songwriters. Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber were both part of songwriting teams that helped define American popular music for different generations.

The songs of Leiber and partner  Mike Stoller have been performed by a full spectrum of artists, from Elvis Presley to Peggy Lee, The Coasters to Edith Piaf, Miranda Lambert to PJ Harvey. Jerry Leiber’s lyrics are part of the fabric of popular culture, and the vast list of artists who have performed “Jailhouse rock” (The Cramps and Fleetwood Mac among them) attests to music’s ability to speak across generations.

The Music Division has a more personal connection with Nick Ashford. Ashford and his wife and songwriting partner Valerie Simpson performed a memorable finale at the first ASCAP concert in the Coolidge Auditorium in 2009. The team wrote hit songs for Ray Charles and Ronnie Milsap in the 1960s, but are best known for a series of hits for Motown, including “Ain’t no mountain high enough” and “Solid.”

The Library of Congress has dozens recordings of the works of Leiber and Stoller and Ashford and Simpson. The complete songwriting output of both legendary teams is represented in Music Division collections through Copyright Deposit. Leiber and Ashford may be gone, but their music lives on.

Thanks to Head of Acquisitions and Processing Denise Gallo for assisting with this post.

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