Tag Archives: Ashford & Simpson

Fairfield Museum Unites Leonard Bernstein And Keith Richards

In 2014, the town of Fairfield celebrates its founding 375 years ago.

And nothing says “1639” like rock ‘n’ roll, soul, jazz and show tunes.

The Fairfield Museum and History Center kicks off the 375th anniversary with a “Rockin’ Top Ten” exhibit. Among the area musicians honored: former Westporters Ashford & Simpson, and the Remains, a half-Westport band that still inspires awe nearly 50 years after touring with the Beatles.

The exhibit features rare photographs, videos and artifacts from other artists who lived next to Westport, and spent (or are spending) plenty of time here: Weston’s Keith Richards and Jose Feliciano; Wilton’s Dave Brubeck; Fairfield’s Leonard Bernstein, Richard Rodgers, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club), Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards Chic), and Donna Summer.

It’s safe to say that, before this exhibit, all of those names had never before appeared in the same sentence.

The Remains included Westporters Barry Tashian (3rd from right) and Bill Briggs (far right). Rock critic Jon Landau said the band was "how you told a stranger about rock and roll."

The Remains included Westporters Barry Tashian (3rd from left) and Bill Briggs (far left). Rock critic Jon Landau said the band was “how you told a stranger about rock and roll.”

Over the next 3 months the museum show — partially sponsored by Westporters Deej and Deborah Webb — will include musical performances, lectures, artist evenings, films and more.

It kicks off tomorrow (Thursday, January 16, 6 p.m.) with a show featuring Chris Frantz. Other events this year include appearances by Caravan of Thieves, Mystic Bowie and the Zambonis; a performance and lecture tracing the influential friendship between Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland; the story of Bridgeport’s once-famous Ritz Ballroom dance palace, and an evening with Jose Feliciano.

About the only thing missing is Hall and Oates.

(For more information click here, or call 203-259-1598.)

Remembering Nick Ashford

Years ago  I’d see a good-looking black man, with long dark hair, jogging on the streets of town.

You don’t see a lot of black guys running in Westport.  But what I always noticed about him was his presence.   He wasn’t particularly fast, but he had grace and style.

One day I asked someone who he was.

“Ashford,” he said simply.

As in Ashford & Simpson.

Nick Ashford died yesterday in New York, of throat cancer.  He was 70.

Nick Ashford

He and his wife, Valerie Simpson, bought a 7.5 acre property on the corner of Cross Highway and Bayberry Lane in 1974.

They sold it in 2007.  Their impressive home became a tear-down — replaced by an even larger one.

According to Emily Hamilton Laux, who lived across the street, Ashford & Simpson used it primarily as a summer home.

Every 4th of July, there was a fantastic party.  Limos deposited a who’s-who of the R&B world.  Guests wore white linen — and bands like KC & the Sunshine Band  performed.

“People would walk around the neighborhood,” Emily says.  “We knew we couldn’t crash the party, but we’d listen to music better than anything you could hear in the best club anywhere.”

Ashford & Simpson were not active participants in Westport life — beyond jogging, eating out in local restaurants and going downtown — but those of us who knew they were here always included their names with pride.

“Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward live here,” we’d say.  “And Harry Reasoner, and …”  We’d add a few more names.

Then we’d say:  “And Ashford & Simpson.”

They were our little connection to Motown.  The duo wrote “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” and “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand,” among many others.

As performers, their biggest hit was “Solid as a Rock,” in 1984.

Ashford & Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984.

Nick Ashford always seemed larger than Westport.  He was in town, but not part of it.

Then I’d see him jogging, and I’d realize he was just another middle-aged guy who lived here and worked hard, trying to keep in shape.

Just a middle-aged guy who happened to write an important chunk of America’s impressive songbook.