“You’re All I Need to Get By.” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.” “Your Precious Love.” Married songwriters Nickolas Ashford, 59, and Valerie Simpson, 55, have crafted some of the most enduring love songs in the pop music canon. We caught up with the team, which just released “The Very Best of Ashford & Simpson,” to find out how they’ve kept their personal and professional partnership going for more than 27 years.
Q: You two met in 1964 at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church. How has gospel influenced your love songs?
Ashford: Gospel is a form of music where you have to tell stories in order to feel the spirit move in you. A lot of it is so spontaneous that you don’t even know what’s going to come out of your mouth. And that’s a lot how Val and I write. She just sits down at the piano and plays. The spirit is in her hand, and it just gets to me, and something is born.
Q: What’s the power of love?
Ashford: It’s the one form of glue that holds people together. Because love forgives everything. When you look at a person and know that you love them, there’s very little else to talk about.
Simpson: It colors everything. And the older we get, the more we can appreciate the fact that we’ve been able to sustain this relationship. It’s probably because we started as friends and not as lovers.
Q: Mary J. Blige and Method Man covered “You’re All I Need to Get By,” but in general there’s a dearth of hip-hop love songs — why?
Ashford: There’s so much ego involved.
Simpson: And there’s a lack of vulnerability. You have to stand hard, therefore you can’t show a certain softness. I don’t think they’re ready to do that.