Yesterday saw the loss of two great American songwriters, who between them wrote such classics as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Jerry Leiber, 78, died unexpectedly in Los Angeles of cardiopulmonary failure. Nick Ashford, 70, died in a New York City hospital after suffering from throat cancer.
Leiber, a lyricist, and composer partner Mike Stoller were well-known for penning some of the defining songs of early rock and roll, including the aforementioned Elvis hits. Both had backgrounds in blues and jazz, and their songs were performed by artists including Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Otis Redding. Ashford wrote songs with his wife, Valerie Simpson. The pair penned some of Motown’s biggest hits, including “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand.”