Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Bryant Park Benchmarks: Nick Ashford

On a bench nestled in Bryant Park’s gardens bordering the south side of the lawn, is a plaque reading “Nick Ashford Slept Here”. Purchased by his wife in 1996, the plaque symbolizes Nick Ashford’s incredible rags to riches story.

Before becoming one half of Ashford & Simpson, a dynamic songwriting, producing, and performing duo, Ashford was just another New York City transplant with his sights set on the music business. He struggled to make it without income or a place to live. In the early 1960’s Ashford began spending his nights in Bryant Park, a well known haven for drug dealers and derelicts at the time.

Hoping to find a free meal at White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, Ashford met Valerie Simpson who was singing with the church’s choir. The pair began writing songs and singing together, and in 1974 they were married.

The couple’s collaborative career spans the genres of Motown, R&B, and Pop-Soul. In addition to recording multiple gold records of their own, Ashford & Simpson penned hit songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need To Get By”, and “I’m Every Woman” for legends like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Chaka Khan, and Gladys Knight. A radio show, television appearances, and memorable live performances at venues across the globe are also on the duo’s long list of achievements.

Simpson bought the plaque as a gift for Ashford on his 53rd birthday, as a reminder of their remarkable journey together and a donation to help beautify the park he had once called home.

Read the story behind the Bryant Park Benchmarks Campaign here

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