America Mourns Two Legendary Songwriters

Jerry Leiber and Nick Ashford died yesterday

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 23, 2011 9:12 AM CDT

(Newser) – 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.”

Songwriter Nickolas Ashford attends the Apollo Theater Fourth Annual Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Apollo Theater on May 2, 2008 in New York City.
Songwriter Nickolas Ashford attends the Apollo Theater Fourth Annual Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Apollo Theater on May 2, 2008 in New York City.   (Getty Images)
In this July 23, 1992 file photo, songwriter Jerry Leiber poses in the Russian Tea Room in New York.
In this July 23, 1992 file photo, songwriter Jerry Leiber poses in the Russian Tea Room in New York.   (AP Photo/Chrystyna Czajkowski, file)
Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber.
Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber.   (Associated Press/Getty Images)
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He was my friend, my buddy, my writing partner for 61 years. We met when we were 17 years old. I am going to miss him. - Mike Stoller on Jerry Leiber

They had magic, and that's what creates those wonderful hits, that magic. Without those songs, those artists wouldn't have been able to go to the next level. - Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire on Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson

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