Norman Whitfield and the Velvelettes were a match made in soul music heaven
Remembering a forgotten soul classic from ’69
The legendary songwriters had a smash of their own in ’84
Even in an era of dance crazes not every one took off
Maxine Brown was one of the most respected soul singers of the ’60s. Then a fateful decision by her label left her in the lurch.
When Nick Ashford passed away on Tuesday, the music world was robbed of a true legend. Nick, along with his partner (and later wife) Valerie Simpson, had a quarter-century run as one of the greatest songwriting teams in pop and soul music history. Nick and Valerie met in 1963. Within three years, they’d already scored a #1 hit with Ray Charles’ “Let’s Go Get Stoned”. Flash-forward a couple of years, and the duo had written songs that would become standards thanks to an association with Motown Records: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need To Get By”, “Your Precious Love”, “Ain’t Nothin’ Like The Real Thing”. Whether in their originally recorded versions by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, or in the form of covers by Diana Ross (who they would later directly assist by writing and producing classics including 1979’s The Boss LP) and Aretha Franklin, or even when being sampled (Method Man’s “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By”, combining two Ashford/Simpson compositions, was a Top 5 pop …
The story of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell is one that ends tragically, but begins in glory. Together they stormed the charts in 1967 with a series of indelible soul pop classics that retain an honored place in popular culture to this day, and are among my favorite recordings in the soul canon. Some of you will remember that Gaye had an earlier partner, Kim Weston, and in early 1967 they had an international Motown smash hit with their duet “It Takes Two.” But Weston left Motown, and Gaye, forcing him to choose a new singing partner. His choice was Philadelphia’s Tammi Terrell, who was a music business veteran. The duo recorded a string of hits during an 18 month period beginning in 1967. Their first hit was the unforgettable “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Others included “Your Precious Love,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “You’re All I Need To Get By,” and today’s selection, “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You”. “If I Could …