Nick Ashford

Just in case you haven’t heard, Nick Ashford—one half of Ashford and Simpson—died today of throat cancer. He was 70.

This is just a guess, but I’d say, oh, 89 percent of Americans wouldn’t have recognized Ashford had he knocked on their doors wearing an I’M NICK ASHFORD T-shirt. While Ashford and Simpson were popular, they weren’t, oh, Hall & Oates big or even Loggins-Messina big. At least not in my circle of small-town suburban New York.

That said, Ashford and Simpson will always have a place in my heart. Here’s why …

Back in the 1980s, we used to do a fair amount of shopping in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. My brother and I loathed those trips, because the stores were all very boring, and Mom seemed to spend a lot of time in them. However, with those endeavors came a bribe: Should we deal with two or three hours of shopping hell, Mom would take us to the Pepperidge Farm Thrift Store and allow us to pick out any outdated treat we wanted. Sure, all the cookies and mini cakes were at least five weeks past due. But, as my proud mother always made sure to note, “They’re just as good as new! Can you even taste any difference?”

Honestly, we couldn’t. These were sealed products, probably loaded with every staying chemical short of formaldehyde. They wouldn’t expire until 2321.

That said, a chance to rib Mom was a chance I couldn’t bypass. As we cruised the store’s shelves, I would inevitably begin to sing the only Ashford and Simpson song I knew—Solid (As a Rock). I think the tune’s about love and relationships, but to us it became focussed on a singular there: The archaic cookies Mom was forcing us to eat. Always a good sport, my mother would laugh and laugh and laugh …

So RIP, Nick Ashford. Whenever I crack my teeth on a hardened cookie, you’ll be in my thoughts.