Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson will become the 11th songwriting team to receive the Recording Academy’s trustees award on Saturday when the annual Grammy Salute to Music Legends special is taped for later airing on PBS. The event will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.
Ashford & Simpson will be the third married couple to receive the honor, following Alan and Marilyn Bergman and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. (Gerry Goffin and Carole King had divorced by the time they received the honor.) Ashford & Simpson will be the first of these couples to receive the honor following the death of one of the spouses; Ashford died in 2011.
Here’s a list of songwriting teams who have received trustees awards. They are shown in chronological order by the date they received the award.
Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn (1968). The team received the honor a year after Strayhorn’s death in 1967 at age 51. The team wrote Ellington’s immortal “Satin Doll.” On his own, Strayhorn wrote such Ellington classics as “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Lush Life.” They shared one Grammy nom, best original jazz composition for “Virgin Islands Suite” (1965). Ellington died in 1974.
George and Ira Gershwin (1986). They were the first songwriting brothers to receive the honor. The award was posthumous for both siblings. Ira died in 1983. George died in 1937. He was just 38. Their countless classics include “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love,” “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.”
Burt Bacharach and Hal David (1997). The team shared six Grammy noms, including song of the year noms for “Wives and Lovers” (1963), “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (1969) and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” (1969). Their only shared win was for best score from an original cast show album for Promises, Promises (1969). David died in 2012.
Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland (1998). The Hollands were the second pair of songwriting brothers to receive the honor. HDH, which wrote such classics as “Where Did Our Love Go,” “I Can’t Help Myself,” “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” never received a Grammy nom, but Dozier later nabbed two noms. He won one, best song written specifically for a motion picture or television for “Two Hearts” from Buster.
Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe (1999). As with the Gershwins, the award was posthumous for both partners. Lerner died in 1986; Loewe in 1988. They shared three Grammy noms—song of the year for “Gigi” at the very first Grammys (1958), best show album (original cast) (1960) for Camelot and best cast show album for My Fair Lady – 20th Anniversary Production (1976).
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (1999). The writers of such early rock and roll classics as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Yakety Yak” shared two Grammy noms—record of the year for Peggy Lee‘s “Is That All There Is?” (1969) and best musical show album for Smokey Joe’s Cafe – The Songs of Leiber & Stoller (1995). They won for the latter project. Leiber died in 2011.
Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (1999). They shared nine Grammy noms—seven for best R&B song and two for producer of the year, non-classical. They won the 1989 award for best R&B song for “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” (It won that year due to the popularity of Simply Red‘s remake of the song, which had been made famous in 1972 by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.)
Gerry Goffin and Carole King (2004). They were the first male/female songwriting pair and the first once-married songwriting couple to receive a trustees award. The writers of such classics as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow?,” “Up on the Roof” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman,” were never nominated for a Grammy for their work as a team, but King went on to win four awards for her 1971 album Tapestry. Goffin died in 2014.
Marilyn and Alan Bergman (2013). They were the first still-married songwriting couple to receive a trustees award. They shared 11 Grammy noms—more than anyone else on this list—including four for song of the year: “Nice ‘N Easy” (1960), “Theme from Summer of ’42 (The Summer Knows)” (1972), “The Way We Were” (1974) and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” (1978). They won two—song of the year for “The Way We Were” and album of best original score for the film of the same name.
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (2015). They were the second still-married songwriting couple to receive a trustees award. They shared four Grammy noms, including two for song of the year: “Somewhere Out There” (1987) and “Don’t Know Much” (1989). They won two Grammys for “Somewhere Out There”—song of the year and best song written specifically for a motion picture or television.
Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson (2019). The writers of such classics as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” shared five Grammy noms, including best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocal for the albums Solid (1985) and Real Love (1986).
How about Rodgers and Hart and Rodgers and Hammerstein? They all received trustees awards, but individually, not as teams. Composer Richard Rodgers was honored in 1989. Lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II were honored separately in 1992. How about John Lennon and Paul McCartney? The Beatles received a trustees award in 1972. Lennon and McCartney each received lifetime achievement awards, separately, in 1991 and 1990, respectively.
This year’s other trustees award recipients are Lou Adler and Johnny Mandel. Lifetime achievement award honorees are Black Sabbath, George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic, Billy Eckstine, Donny Hathaway, Julio Iglesias, Sam & Dave and Dionne Warwick. This year’s technical Grammy award recipient is Saul Walker.