Two great songwriters died yesterday. Nick Ashford, who wrote “Solid,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and more songs than I can list here (including one of my favorite Ray Charles songs) and Jerry Lieber (who wrote “Stand by Me,” “Jailhouse Rock” and lots more that you’ve heard before) each touched our lives through their music. Ashford also sang some of his songs with his partner Valerie Simpson, but Lieber and his songwriting partner Mike Stoller were content to let George Benson, Elvis Presley, and countless others record their songs.
The creation of music is something I marvel at. The creation of any form of artistic expression is wondrous enough, but music can take you back in time to when you first heard a particular song. There are so many examples of it in music, but the line “started humming a song from 1962” from Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” comes immediately to my mind. And the people who can create such music, as Ashford and Lieber both were, deserve all of the accolades and fame that our society can give them.
Which is why, when it’s late and I should be in bed, I’m trying to find the words to put what they mean to us out there for others to read and consider. I’m not composing a song, because I don’t have the talent to do that. But Lieber and Ashford could take a phrase and make it into something that will endure forever. The internet gives all of us the chance to do something like that, if we would only take a moment to put our photography or our poems or our creative selves out there for the world to see or hear.
By acknowledging the songs these men wrote, and putting their craft into the larger framework of what that means for all of us, I am trying to honor and perpetuate their work in whatever laughably small way I can. So I thank them for their music, and for inspiring me to do what I can to make my voice heard as well.