Nick Ashford, of the successful Motown singer-songwriter duo Ashford and Simpson, died Monday afternoon. Liz Rosenberg, his publicist as well as a close friend, said she was "heartbroken" to hear of Ashford's death. "I loved him very much," she was quoted by the press as saying. Ashford had been battling, and was being treated for, throat cancer. His wife (Valerie Simpson) and his children were at his bedside when he died. He was 69, according to imdb.com.
Jerry Lieber of the great Brill Building pop-music songwriting team, Lieber & Stoller, also passed away yesterday, at age 78, of cardiopulmonary failure. Lieber & Stoller wrote innumerous rock'n'roll hits beginning with their cross-over, "Hound Dog," made famous by Elvis Presley (but originally done to perfection by Big Mama Thornton; video below). Their last major hit was "Stuck in the Middle with You," by Stealers Wheel in 1972.
In the early 1960s, Phil Spector was their protege in New York, developing his producer's craft while assisting and playing guitar on their sessions, including "On Broadway." Leiber and Stoller founded and briefly owned Red Bird Records, which issued the Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" and the Dixie Cups' "Chapel of Love".