Letter from the editor: Press play, and smile


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The Independent Online

We don’t talk about music enough. Three sad stories in today’s paper got us all humming. The subsequent discussions got decidedly heated.

There is of course the news that a post-mortem examination has found that Amy Winehouse died with no trace of illegal drugs in her system – though there was some alcohol. Her genius has been much discussed here. No need to say more, just play her music.

Yesterday brought the sad news that two of the finest songwriters of the pop era had died: Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber. You may not know the names, but you will – like all of us at i – have hummed and karaoke’d the tunes.

Ashford and his wife Valerie were impressive enough as Ashford and Simpson – think of “Solid (As A Rock)” – but in truth their contribution to the Motown lexicon is immortal. “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” remains my favourite from a list that includes “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “You’re All I Need (To Get By)”, “I’m Every Woman”, and so many more. Press play, and smile.

Leiber and his co-writer Mike Stoller broke through a decade before Ashford with “Hound Dog”. Elvis Presley picked it up and “Jailhouse Rock” was to follow. Other hits ranged widely from “Yakety Yak” to “Poison Ivy”, but my personal Leiber favourite was the massively influential 1961 Ben E King smash “Stand By Me”.

It’s funny, as I write I am aware of how old-farty I sound. Many readers will primarily know some of these tracks through TV ads. You know what? That’s fine – if the ads lead you to their work. But, just as I encourage young readers to download and play the music of these two extraordinary writers, I would recommend older music fans to try Winehouse’s “Tears Dry on Their Own” – with a writing credit for Leiber and Stoller.

Happy listening.