An Evening With Valerie Simpson In Honor of Nick Ashford is an hour-long, live-to-tape PBS-TV interview program that showcased the wonderful life and career of the legendary singer/songwriter duo Ashford & Simpson. Taped in 2011 at Northwestern University Law School's Thorne Auditorium, An Evening With Valerie Simpson In Honor of Nick Ashford featured the first public interview of R&B icon Valerie Simpson after the untimely passing of her husband and songwriting partner, Nick Ashford. Simpson was candid, revealing and witty as she talked about she and Nick Ashford's chart-topping career
Tony Award winner and choreographer George Faison co-produced the show alongside The HistoryMakers Founder and Executive Director Julieanna Richardson. Ray Chew, Ashford & Simpson's musical director for over twenty years, led the band and served as the program's music producer. Hosted by noted PBS-TV journalist Gwen Ifill, An Evening With Valerie Simpson In Honor of Nick Ashford included musical performances by Patti Austin and Kindred the Family Soul.
Legendary songwriters and performers, Ashford & Simpson rank among the most acclaimed and admired creative couples in contemporary music. They received 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 met Valerie Simpson in 1964 at Harlem's White Rock Baptist Church, where they both sang in the choir. After their breakthrough composition for Ray Charles, “Let’s Go Get Stoned,” became a major hit 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." The duo later helped 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. launching their own recording and performing career. Between 1973 and 2011, they released sixteen albums, including unforgettable hits such 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 number twelve 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. Throughout their own performing career, Ashford & Simpson continued writing and producing for other artists, including Ben E. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Chaka Khan and Quincy Jones.
In 1996, Ashford & Simpson released "Been Found," an acclaimed music/poetry album collaboration with their friend Maya Angelou. That same year, they opened their second restaurant, the Sugar Bar in New York City, which hosts a renowned Thursday night open mic event that has featured notable stars like Patti LaBelle, Stevie Wonder, Paul Shaffer, Michael McDonald, Jimmy Buffett, and Queen Latifah.
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, she 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 NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In October of 2004, Ifill became the first African American woman to moderate a vice presidential debate. Her first book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published in 2009.
In 2011, Ifill served as the moderator for the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C. She 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.
Ifill passed away in 2016.
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