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  • 10.01.2019
  • by Nikozil

An Interview with Songwriting Legend Valerie Simpson - PopMatters

How Valerie Simpson Feels Nick Ashford's Presence - Oprah's Next Chapter - Oprah Winfrey Network

It's intermission at Chicago: The Musical. Two audience members in row F are discussing Act I. In fact, the songs of Valerie Simpson came to Broadway even before Simpson herself. As a young girl in the Bronx, Valerie Simpson never imagined she'd one day perform on Broadway. Throughout the '70s and '80s, their own recordings were distinguished by immaculately sung and orchestrated productions, whether "Gimme Something Real", "Send It", or "Ain't It a Shame". They performed at some of the most renowned venues in the world, yet the duo scarcely saw themselves on a Broadway stage, even though the dramatic arc of albums like Street Opera seemed ripe for theatrical adaptation.

As performers they scored their own hits, such as their signature tune, Solid. It wasn't romance from the start. For eight years Nick and Valerie shared a purely creative partnership, but their bond became too hard to deny.

Valerie Simpson on Cissy Houston

In they married. Life without her husband and best friend has been difficult for Simpson, but she is healing through music. No doubt she will rise to the occasion.

As she confidently said, "I didn't know I was short, so I acted like I was tall. You've talked about Nick's passing as just "one step at a time. Just realizing that you had something that was so perfect.

I was so fortunate to have someone who allowed me to be totally myself. He would say he didn't feel married. Even though we were together all the time, there was a great freedom in the relationship. Yet he was somebody who would hold my hand in the car. He was so romantic. A very romantic man.

He was so good looking and just such a great guy. It really was kind of storybook. I didn't think about it at the time. I miss the companionship. I just reach out. In transition I think the spirit goes somewhere, but I don't think it leaves. I assume he would look after me for as long as I need. So, I know he is on my shoulder or in the wind that crosses my breath. I'm not afraid to reach out to that or speak to it. Even though you two had been writing songs together, it took eight years before a romantic relationship began.

When did you start to look at him in a different way? It was at a function--one those dinners where they serve that chicken. Then they had a band playing. We danced on a slow dance. Even though I always called him my brother, suddenly he didn't seem like my brother!

There was something different. Then we got in the limo, and he said, "Do you want to talk about this? It's weird because I was married for about two years to a musician and Nick was the photographer at the wedding.

I'll never forget--he had on a beige suit. He was taking pictures of me and something just didn't seem right.

I'll never forget that feeling. I didn't even know what was wrong. The marriage only lasted about two years. Nick and I were writing songs together, but that husband, the two-year husband, always said something was going to happen, but nothing was happening!

It was like he could see it coming. The title was inspired by sitting in a record executive's office and feeling like dinosaurs. One of the reasons you didn't release it 11 years ago was because you weren't happy with your vocals. What didn't you like? I don't know. I just wasn't happy.

Even now to bring it out, I've changed a few things. When you're a producer and an artist you're very critical of yourself. I like to produce other people, but I'm not that good at producing myself. I just couldn't get happy. Now, for whatever reason, I can accept it. What I don't like, I can accept. Acceptance is a wonderful thing.

Which is the message in the song Trying to be Perfect off the album. The lyrics are: "The image isn't real. What we show on the outside isn't what we really feel. Is it different from who you really are?


I'm just now realizing that the perception that people have of me was based on two people. I don't think they know who I am now. I've realized now that Nick was a great filter for me. He would shut me down when I was going too far.

Now I have no shut-down. There's no one to keep me in check. I guess I'm in a state of becoming. Even though I've had a full career and I've been around a long time, it's like dinosaurs are coming back. It's all new. I'm having to be on my own and seeing how exciting life can be now. It's a question of being more fearless and saying, "What difference does it make; just go out and do it.

I feel like I've had enough success, so even if something falls apart, it's okay. I have that mood or that song will reinforce a weakness. When you're not feeling like you are, you put that on and then you get that va va voom feeling.

That was actually him walking down Central Park West and saying the buildings were not going to steal his dream. He was going to conquer New York. Ain't No Mountain High Enough.

Valerie simpson dating

Then it turned more love as we started working on it. The inception came from the thought of, "I can conquer anything. It almost feels like things fell in my lap.

With dazzle, flair, and "all that jazz", Songwriters Hall of Fame legend Valerie Simpson makes her Broadway debut as Matron "Mama" Morton in Chicago: The . Last August, Nick Ashford died at 70 from throat cancer and Valerie Simpson, his wife of 36 years, The album was written and recorded 11 years ago, but Simpson said it never seemed just right. . I can't put a date on it. Official twitter page of VALERIE SIMPSON, one half of the beloved and legendary . Wow! what a lovely date for such a lovely women!.

It wasn't like I was expecting this to be my career. It just happened to me. Nobody in my family was musical. I had no idea you could be a songwriter and make a living at it. It was all discovery. It was all just thrown at me. I didn't get that far. I was just too caught up with a personal view that was limited. After your initial conversation with Barry, how were you cast in the role?

He asked me to go look at the play. Before I even went to look at it, it took me a month-and-a-half to get back to him because I really just thought he was wrong.

I'd seen my own friend Roz Ryan who was a wonderful Mama Morton. Then I thought about Queen Latifah in the movie. I was thinking of a woman of a certain stature. She had to have that posture. I didn't think I had it, but he was seeing that in me. When I went up for the audition, I just went in there with all my stuff.

I thought, I'm just going to go up there and show out! That's how I got the part. It was very quick. They put me in rehearsal nine days before I actually hit the stage. It's different with a new show that's opening because you get the preview period. I was in previews on my opening night! I just had to jump in the pool and swim. How do you approach a role that's already so well-known, especially since the film version was an Oscar-winning success?

I didn't really study it. I said, "Let me just see what this is for me. I can't be Roz Ryan, who I adore. You know what came to me? She was in her shop ó the tall girl's shop. She was looking for a dress.

This security guard came over and said, "Maya Angelou, what are you doing at Saks by yourself? Don't you have security? Where is your security? She's got security because I'm here. I am all of that. That's the attitude that I tried to carry with this part. Oh my goodness. It's clever, colorful writing. It's my honor and my thrill to know the power of a lyric that's good for all time.

When I sing "Class", I could be singing it about the circumstances of today or back when they wrote the song. It's almost like they were cognizant of what was to come and they were cognizant of the moment they were living in.

They wrote it that way. How would you describe the dynamic between Mama and Velma in that scene when they perform "Class"? I think you sense that Mama always had a special place in her heart for Velma, even though she was always trying to make some money on her! It's almost like Velma growing up and realizing that she's moved up a notch too. Life didn't turn out like she meant it to, but she's grown with it and she's used to it now.

Valerie Simpson news, gossip, photos of Valerie Simpson, biography, Valerie Simpson boyfriend list Relationship history. Valerie Simpson relationship list. Valerie (of Ashford & Simpson) Has A Famous Singer Brother & Fans Surprised By Who He Is. Meet Valerie Simpsonís Brother. Valerie Simpson, has been hanginí in there ever since the passing of her better half, Nick Ashford. A masterminds DeBorah Gittens (I) and Sabrina Lamb (2nd, I) attend a speed dating soiree at famed singers Valerie Simpson (c) and Nick.

You see a meeting of the minds. They're more on one level now than they were in the beginning of the play, I believe. Yes, the fact that Mama and Velma share that moment together in Act II is not something you'd expect to happen, based on the beginning of the musical. In a way, they're sharing this moment of sisterhood. I think at that moment, they come into a knowing. It seems to me that Mama Morton is a lover of women and men, so I wanted for you to sense a little bit of that.

What does "When You're Good to Mama" offer you as a performer? What do you get to do in that song?

Show off! I like that I get that opportunity to look out at that audience and, for that moment, just be as sassy as I want to be and command that moment. I can't even begin to evaluate their strengths. They are so professionally wonderful, artistically giving, and creatively embracing of a newcomer like me. Any little error in words I would have, they would have my back. I can't say enough about their graciousness. We all sink or swim together. They're always lifting me up and I so appreciate that.

They made me better and they made me want to be better. Chaz Lamar Shepherd made his debut as Billy Flynn the same night as you, but you also share a history beyond the Broadway stage.

When did you first get to know him? I got to see him in The Color Purple when he was Harpo. He's such a wonderful songwriter, singer, and pianist that he would come to the Sugar Bar very regularly. Then he started hosting open mic on Thursday nights where he would just be very extemporaneous and make people laugh. I got to see another side of him. He was hosting that night. I waited until the end of the night when it was just a few people.

The Sugar Bar is like a home, a hub. I got up onstage and I said, "You're not going to believe what's happened to me. I'm going to be on Broadway as Mama Morton in Chicago. Then Chaz came up onstage and said, "Valerie this is amazing. I just see myself up there with you. I see myself on Broadway with you. This was not in his thinking before that night!

His manager was there that night.

Valerie Simpson: Still Solid as a Rock

His manager reached out for an audition. He got the audition. He won the audition and we entered the stage on the 12th of March at the same time, just like he predicted. To see the two of you owning yourselves in these roles, and then to see the response from the audience during your opening performance, was truly one of those nights that New York is made of.

To see him command it, and become the character with the dancing and all of that, I was wowed. It made me so proud. So much of what we get at a Valerie Simpson concert, and what you and Nick brought to your shows for so many years, is an engagement with the audience. As Mama Morton, is it tempting to break the fourth wall? I want to be an ensemble player.

Celebrating Valerie Simpson s birthday earlier this week on midnight cruise!!! Nick used to call us the 2 . Valerie Simpson dating 6. Valerie Simpson marriage 7.

It's not "The Valerie Simpson Show". Many in that audience don't know me at all, so I don't want it to go too far, but I'm also aware that Barry Weissler saw something in me, so I don't want to disappoint him. There's that fine line that I want to walk where I can give him some of who I am and leave something else there of my Mama Morton for the next Mama Morton. That's my journey. How do you maintain vocal health in order to perform night after night? Basically, it's just being good to your body and not overeating.

All you really want to do is do the job. That's why I gave myself six weeks. They asked for a little longer but I realized I can really do what I know I can do. I feel like I can stay healthy and be on top of my game for six weeks.

I'm a newcomer. I've been in this business for 50 years and now I'm the baby. I had to change my whole way of thinking, get rid of any ego, and just be a receptacle and receive what I'm being taught. There's two David's that worked with me. They were just so important to me. It's like going to school again. You learn and you study. It's really been a delightful experience. The revival of Chicago has been on Broadway for more than 20 years. What do you attribute to its longevity?

That score is good for the next years. And the subject matter: we all like the idea of these women up to no good, trying to get away with murder. Of course, she included "All That Jazz" and "Nowadays" in her set. I thought how amazing it was to see the woman who originated the role of Velma in Chicago with the show still running just a few blocks away. Not every show gets that chance to be fixed in the pubic's consciousness for decades.


2 thoughts on “An Interview with Songwriting Legend Valerie Simpson - PopMatters

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