Songwriter Nickolas Ashford dies at age 70

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Songwriter Nickolas Ashford, who penned such rhythm and blues hits as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "I'm Every Woman" with his wife Valerie Simpson, died on Monday at age 70. Ashford, who had been treated for cacer, died at a New York hospital with his family at his side, publicist Liz Rosenberg told Reuters. A native of South Carolina, Ashford met Simpson in the early 1960s at White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, after he moved to New York to pursue a career in entertainment and found himself homeless. Simpson played the piano and sang in a church choir, which Ashford soon joined. The two began writing songs together and had their breakthrough hit in 1966 when Ray Charles released their composition "Let's Go Get Stoned." It was the beginning of a partnership that saw the duo marry in 1974 and write a string of hits. They were signed to Motown Records, where they penned the 1967 classic Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell duet "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Gaye and Terrell also had hits with the couple's songs "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "You're All I Need to Get By." Ashford and Simpson's other songs include "Send It," "Found a Cure," and "Don't Cost You Nothing." Their composition "I'm Every Woman" was recorded by Chaka Khan and later by Whitney Houston, and for a time was the opening theme song for Oprah Winfrey's TV talk show. Ashford and Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. Ashford is survived by Simpson and their daughters Nicole and Asia, Rosenberg said. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis: Editing by Dan Whitcomb)

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