Ashford & Simpson - May 14, 2014

There are many singer-songwriter teams out there whose music has become part of American culture, despite that the artists themselves have not become household names.  One rhythm and blues partnership that some may feel fit this category is that of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson.  Not only did this they write many iconic songs for other artists and create quality albums together - recording sixteen albums between 1973 and 2009 - but they were married, and stayed married for 47 years.  Their partnership ended in 2011, only after the death of Ashford.

The couple met in 1964, while attending the White Rock Baptist Church in Harlem, New York City. Having written for famous artists before Ray Charles, it was their songs "Let's Go Get Stoned" and "I Don't Need No Doctor" that brought them to the attention of Motown Records.  There, famed Motown chief Berry Gordy had them write for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.  Songs including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" got them national attention, and they released many albums in their own right as well.  1984's Solid included the title track, "Solid (As A Rock)," which was about the strength of a relationship despite the challenges couples have to overcome.  It proved the most popular song they recorded together.  In 2009, they re-recorded it, changing the lyrics to complement the 'new' title:  "Solid (As Barack" in support of the 44th President of the United States.

QUESTION:

Which of the following performers did Ashford & Simpson NOT work with or write songs for?

a)  Diana Ross

b)  The Kingston Trio

c)  The Marvelettes

d)  Teddy Pendergrass

e)  Chaka Khan

Answer Below

HISTORY TODAY:

The year was 1787.  The United States had officially gained its independence from Great Britain four years prior.  The states were the primary leaders, with a loose and largely ineffectual federal organization working under the Articles of Confederation to maintain some sort of interstate relations, but many were not happy about its general lack of effectiveness.  It was on this day, that delegates from the states met in Philadelphia to 'revise' the Articles of Confederation.  They would quickly be discarded, with the intention to replace them with something more durable and effective.  At this meeting, now known as the Constitutional Convention, leaders of the new country would create the federal Constitution, the oldest national constitution of its kind in the world, and a model for many countries since.  Thanks guys!

Forty-one years ago today, NASA sent into outer space the world's first space station, called Skylab.  It was designed to gather information about outer space and to take photographs of Earth, but the very first mission conducted by astronauts who traveled to it was ... repairing Skylab!  Damage had occurred during takeoff that impacted the solar panels that kept it operational.  It orbited the Earth for six years, with three separate groups of astronauts visiting it during that time, before it fell back into our atmosphere.  It almost completely disintegrated, with some debris falling onto Western Australia.

BIRTHDAYS:

As our loyal readers know, the birthday celebrants highlighted by the American Treasure Tour blog often tend to be important Americans who have contributed to the development of this great country through their efforts at political or social improvement.  Today, we are going to focus on two people who have dramatically impacted popular culture.  First up, born today in 1944, is a man who not only helped inspire the modern concept of the blockbuster movie, but is also a master at commercializing films:  George Lucas.  This native Californian made it clear with the Star Wars franchise that audiences will not only develop undying loyalty to fictional worlds, but they will happily buy action figures and other memorabilia designed to create closer ties to the films they love.  Lucas has only directed six films during a career that began over forty years ago, but the impact he has made on popular culture is truly undeniable.

Our second birthday celebrant is David Byrne.  Eight years younger than Mr. Lucas, Byrne is an incredibly diverse and talented performer, who is most famous for his music - first as the lead singer for the band Talking Heads from 1975 through 1991, then as a solo artist since then - but also for his efforts in film, photography and non-fiction.  Through his music, he has introduced fans to a large variety of cultural genres, many Latin-based.  Byrne was born in Scotland, but moved to Canada when he was two.  He was brought to the United States at the age of eight, and has remained here ever since.  Now a New Yorker through and through, he rides a bicycle as his primary mode of transportation in the city.  So the next time you're in the city, look for a silver-haired cyclist on the street.  You never know!

QUOTE:  The better a singer's voice, the harder it is to believe what they're saying. - David Byrne

Answer:  b)  The Kingston Trio