An Evening With Valerie Simpson PBS-TV Show

Saturday 11/19/2011

Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University School of Law

Chicago, Illinois

An Evening With Valerie Simpson In Honor of Nick Ashford is an hour-long, live-to-tape PBS-TV interview program that showcases the wonderful life and career of the legendary singer/songwriter duo Ashford & Simpson. Taped in 2011 in front of a live theater audience at Northwestern University Law School's Thorne Auditorium, An Evening With Valerie Simpson in Honor of Nick Ashford features the first public interview of R&B icon Valerie Simpson after the untimely passing of her husband and songwriting partner, Nick Ashford.


Co-produced by Tony Award winner and choreographer George Faison and The HistoryMakers Founder & Executive Director Julieanna Richardson with a band led by Ray Chew, who served as the program's music producer and as Ashford & Simpson's musical director for over 20 years, this show is a must see. Hosted by noted PBS-TV journalist , Gwen Ifill, this show includes wonderful musical performances by Patti Austin and Kindred the Family Soul. Simpson is candid, revealing and witty as she talks about she and Nick Ashford's amazing and chart-topping career. Over a forty year period, they helped to transform American music with their "Gospel-inspired" songwriting from Ray Charles' "Let's Go Get Stoned," to hit songs for artists like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell and Diana Ross, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "You're All I Need To Get By" and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)". They continued to write songs and produce for others like Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman" and Teddy Pendergrass' "Is It Still Good to You" while launching their own successful vocal career with four gold records and smash hits including "Send It", "Is It Still Good to You", "Stay Free," and "Solid."


This program was videotaped as part of the annual celebrity interview and fundraiser for The HistoryMakers, a 501(c)(3) Illinois, not-for-profit corporation. The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive, is committed to the development of a unique on-line archive of 5,000 first-person narratives of African American HistoryMakers, both well-known and unsung. When completed, the archive will represent the largest single one of its kind in the world.


The HistoryMakers staff has created a finding aid for this event. View/Download below: 

Finding Aid To An Evening With Valerie Simpson.pdf




Valerie Simpson and Nick Ashford

Legendary songwriters and performers, Ashford & Simpson have long ranked among the most acclaimed and admired creative couples in contemporary music. Ashford & Simpson are recipients of numerous awards and honors, including the Founder's Award from the American Society of Composers And Publishers (ASCAP) and the Pioneer Award from the prestigious Rhythm & Blues Foundation. In 2002, the duo was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Nick Ashford, born in South Carolina, and raised in Willow Run, Michigan, met Valerie Simpson, who was born and raised in Bronx, New York, in 1964 at the White Rock Baptist Church, where they both sang in the choir. After their break through composition “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” which became a major hit for Ray Charles in 1966, Ashford & Simpson went on to become one of Motown’s most successful songwriting teams, penning numerous hits for Marvin Gaye and Tammie Terrell, including classics like "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Your Precious Love," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing," "You're All I Need to Get By," and later helping launch Diana Ross’ solo career with hits like "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" and "The Boss."
In 1973, Ashford & Simpson signed with Warner Bros. Records, where by now the married couple launched their own recording and performing career, building on Valerie’s two solo albums at Motown. Between 1973 and 2011, Ashford & Simpson’s released sixteen albums, including such unforgettable hits as "Send It," "It Seems to Hang On," "Love Don't Make it Right," "Is It Still Good to Ya", "Found a Cure", "Street Corner," "Highrise” and of course, "Solid," which topped the R&B chart in 1984 and crossed over to No. 12 on the pop singles chart. Seven of Ashford & Simpson’s albums were recorded with the help of musical director/arranger Ray Chew. On the road, Ashford & Simpson thrilled crowds with their exhilarating concert appearances, choreographed by Tony Award-winning George Faison. All the while Ashford & Simpson continued writing and producing for other artists, including Ben E. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Chaka Khan (they wrote her hit "I'm Every Woman") and Quincy Jones (they co-wrote and performed on his hit "Stuff Like That").
Ashford & Simpson continued to record and tour, releasing "Been Found," an acclaimed music/poetry album collaboration with their friend Maya Angelou in 1996 on their own label, Hopsack & Silk. That same year, they opened their second restaurant, the Sugar Bar in New York City, which plays host to a renowned Thursday Night Open Mic event that featured notable stars like Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Paul Shaffer, Michael McDonald, Jimmy Buffett, and Queen Latifah.



Gwen Ifill

Pioneering journalist Gwen Ifill was born in Queens, New York in 1955. After earning her B.A. degree in Communications from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1977, Ifill was hired by The Boston Herald American in the midst of the city’s notorious busing crisis. After joining the Baltimore Evening Sun, she moved to covering national politics. In 1984, Ifill was hired by The Washington Post; and in 1991, she became The White House correspondent for The New York Times. In 1994, she was named the chief Congressional correspondent for NBC; and in 1999, she became the moderator of PBS’ Washington Week in Review, as well as a correspondent for The News Hour with Jim Lehrer. In October of 2004, Ifill became the first African American woman to moderate a vice-presidential debate. Ifill’s first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in 2009.
Most recently, Ifill served as the moderator for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. Ifill is the recipient of more than a dozen honorary doctorates and several broadcasting excellence awards, including honors from the National Press Foundation, Ebony Magazine, the Radio Television News Directors Association, and American Women in Radio and Television. Ifill also interviewed Diahann Carroll, Quincy Jones, Eartha Kitt and Smokey Robinson for The HistoryMakers annual PBS-TV An Evening With…series.


George Faison

Julieanna L. Richardson


 Music Director

Ray Chew



Patti Austin

Kindred The Family Soul


 Event Chair

Kelly McNamara Corely 

Host Committee

Deborah O. Brown

Patricia Brown Holmes

Debra Carrington

Gwen Cohen

Beverly A. Coley

Toni Cook Bush

Linda Crane

Allison & Susan Davis

Nabil G. Foster

Brenda Gaines

Denise Gardner

Mark Goodman

Graham Grady

Deborah Gray-Young

Linda Jefferson

Thomas Kaufmann

Karen Levert

Jeffrey D. Colman & Nancy Loeb

Barbara Lumpkin

Felicia Middlebrooks

Sharon Morrow

Al Reid

Dorothy Roberts

Paul Roston

Brenda Russell

Chris Simmons

Dawn Steele Halbert

Sheila Talton

Genelle Trader

Rufus & Jaye Williams