Chart Watch Extra: Top Soul Duos
You probably know that Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson were one of the most successful songwriting teams of the past 50 years. Their many hits include "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "You're All I Need To Get By" and "I'm Every Woman." But you may not know that Ashford & Simpson are also the most successful recording duo in the history of Billboard's soul chart, which is currently called Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
Nineteen duos rank among the top 500 R&B hit-makers in chart history in chart researcher Joel Whitburn's indispensable book Hot R&B Songs 1942-2010. Ashford & Simpson isn't the only married couple on the list. Ike & Tina Turner, whose marriage was as turbulent as Ashford & Simpson's was harmonious, rank #2 among soul duos.
Nick Ashford died last Aug. 22. Ike Turner died Dec. 12, 2007.
Ashford & Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002, but they never won a Grammy, either for songwriting or recording. That doesn't seem right. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if one day the Recording Academy votes Ashford & Simpson a Special Merit Award, either a Lifetime Achievement Award or Trustees Award.
Whitburn's top 500 list also includes four sibling duos: The Brothers Johnson, K-Ci & JoJo, BeBe & CeCe Winans and (surprise) the Everly Brothers. (A lot of pop acts crashed the R&B chart in the 1950s and early 1960s.)
Two giant solo stars came out of soul or hip-hop duos: Tina Turner and Will Smith.
Here, to help celebrate Black Music Month, is a complete list of the duos to rank among the top 500 R&B hit-makers in Hot R&B Songs 1942-2010. At the end of each entry, I tell you where that act ranks among the top 500.
1. Ashford & Simpson. The husband-and-wife team had nine top 10 R&B hits, from 1978's "Don't Cost You Nothing" to 1989's "I'll Be There For You." Their biggest hit was the joyous affirmation "Solid," which reached #1 R&B in 1984. Ashford & Simpson wrote all nine of these songs. Top 500 ranking: #88.
2. Ike & Tina Turner. The husband-and-wife team had six top 10 R&B hits, from 1960's "A Fool In Love" to 1971's classic "nice and rough" cover of CCR's "Proud Mary" (which won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group.) Ike Turner wrote the first five of these hits, which serves as a reminder of his musical talent. (It has been completely overshadowed in recent decades because of his well-chronicled abuse of his wife.) Tina Turner went on to have six top 10 R&B hits of her own. Top 500 ranking: #179.