What was I doing up, and cruising around the isle of Manhattan at 2am today? Why, celebrating the 73rd birthday of the eternally young and vibrant Valerie Simpson, co-writer with late husband Nik Ashford of some of the greatest songs of our lives.
Yes, the woman who helped birth “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Solid,” and “I’m Every Woman” treated her family and friends to a magnificent yacht cruise around Manhattan this morning — on a boat appropriately called “Timeless” that launched at midnight and returned at 4am! I was honored to be counted as a guest.
Among the other guests were Val’s daughters, Nicole and Aja, her brothers, her aide de camp Tee Austin, plus famed choreographer of “The Wiz,” George Faison, legendary rock and roll publicist Liz Rosenberg, great R&B singer Ryan Shaw, Earline Franklin (Aretha’s sister-in-law, and no, she’s not suing the estate), esteemed Berklee music professor Larry Watson, plus a couple dozen or more singers, musicians and friends from Ashford and Simpson’s gem of a hangout, the Sugar Bar, from West 72nd St.
There was dinner, dancing, and the very best music provided by DJ and the Yams (you can see them at the Sugar Bar). Plus Val surprised her guests with a hilariously talent performer named Shequida (aka Gary Hall) who is also a fine singer and really needs to be on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” ASAP.
Val told me, “I really wanted to invite everyone and not have them perform tonight. It was my gift to everyone else, all my friends!”
Well, I think you can see from the video below, a great time was had by all. We miss Nik a lot, but his family is keeping his memory alive. And Val, who can currently be seen in the Motown documentary on Showtime, is a spitfire and a delight. Her soul literally glows from within! And she can, as Rufus Thomas, liked to say, she can sainng! WHat a joyous experience1