The songwriting world lost two titans Monday when Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber died within hours of each other.
Ashford, 70, cowrote a string of hits with his wife, Valerie Simpson, that helped define soul, R&B and funk in the '60s, '70s and '80s. Leiber, 78, teamed with Mike Stoller to establish the hip vocabulary of rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll in the '50s and '60s. They leave behind a trove of classic recordings. Here are 10 of the best from each, arranged chronologically.
Nick Ashford (all cowritten with Valerie Simpson):
“Cry Like a Baby,”
"Let's Go Get Stoned,"
“You’re All I Need to Get By,”
"Didn't You Know (You'd Have to Cry Sometime),"
“California Soul," Marlena Shaw (1969): Originally a single by pop quintet
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,”
"Over and Over," Sylvester (1977): The flamboyant singer/drag queen saw Ashford and Simpson perform this song on "Soul Train" and adopted it for the disco era, with surging gospel-style backing vocals from the future Weather Girls, Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes.
"Ride-O-Rocket," Brothers Johnson (1978): Horn-spackled funk at the crossroads of big-band sophistication.
“I’m Every Woman,”
"Is it Still Good to Ya?,"
Jerry Leiber (most cowritten with Mike Stoller):
“Hound Dog,” Big Mama Thornton (1953):
"Down in Mexico," Coasters (1956): Trouble was always just around the corner in Coasters' songs, as social decorum and moral standards were put to the test, never more ominously than in this chaotic wrong-side-of-the-tracks narrative.
"Jailhouse Rock," Elvis Presley (1957): "Everybody, let's rock!" Centerpiece of a classic Elvis movie and an ahead-of-its time video.
"Love Potion #9," Clovers (1959): Loaded with sly references to alternative sex and street drugs, the exuberantly wiggy narrative presages the Summer of Love by eight years.
“Spanish Harlem,” Ben E. King (1960): Leiber cowrote the song with
“Stand by Me,” Ben E. King (1961): A prayer that becomes a dramatic plea, cowritten by King with Leiber and Stoller. It inspired hundreds of covers by everyone from
"Ruby Baby," Dion (1962): Dion DiMucci swaggers through the Drifters' 1956 hit.
"On Broadway," Drifters (1963): A meeting of great songwriting teams, with Leiber and Stoller collaborating with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil on a tale of big-city aspiration and desperation.
“Is That All There Is?,”