By Michael P Coleman
Over 50 years after her first Billboard #1 record, the iconic Diana Ross scores another #1 — with a song that she recorded back in 1970!
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough 2017,” a remix of the multi-format chart-topper from her eponymous debut solo album, sits at the top spot on Billboard’s dance chart this week. Not very many artists enjoy a #1 record over half a century after releasing a debut album, as Ross did with 1961’s Meet The Supremes.
According to Billboard, it’s the 73-year-old Ross’ first #1 on the Dance chart in over 22 years, when she topped the chart with 1995’s “Take Me Higher.” The remix is featured on a new collection of Ross’, Diamond Diana. The achievement comes just days after the superstar made international headlines by partying at one of the world’s most popular gay nightclubs, The Abbey, in West Hollywood.
Cher, eat your heart out.
The original masterpiece is a six minute opus that includes dramatic spoken word segments interspersed with the emotive, gorgeous soprano that had become Ross’ calling card. The remix’s current success is a testament not just to Ross’ staying power and tremendous talent, but to the original hit, written and produced by the legendary Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.
In a rare interview, Simpson said she was thrilled by the song’s current success.
“I’m beaming, I’m smiling,” Simpson said by phone from her home in New York. “I’m happy that long past my lifetime ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ will continue to touch people and move them as it has proven to do. We didn’t think it would last 50 years, much less wherever else it’s going!”
“Diana is right — great songs DO last forever — and I’m thrilled to be a part of this,” Simpson continued. “But we also had a great carrier. You can’t do much better than Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell [who recorded the original version in 1967] and then Diana Ross, somebody who can carry the message. If it had been sung by someone unknown, perhaps the world wouldn’t have gotten to know the song. So we owe her a debt of gratitude that she was such a fantastic carrier, and that she continues to carry that song and that message.”
Simpson suggested that the stars aligned with the partnership between her, Ashford and Ross on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
“Everything in it’s time, and that was the right time,” Simpson said. “We caught Diana at a great time in her life, because she was leaving The Supremes and she wanted to step out on her own. It’s funny when a song helps you do that. We pushed her as far as we could push her [in the studio], we made sure her keys had her voice sounding bright, and the message of that song is still the same as it was 50 years ago.”
“In terms of the political climate that we’re in, we may need it more than we did then,” Simpson continued. “We have to be strong about who we are and what we’re standing for, and we’ve got to stand for something. So ‘ain’t no mountain high enough’ right now!”
With today’s mercurial music business, who knows what tomorrow will bring (a new recording contract for Ross, perhaps)? But for now, the First Lady of Motown is enjoying her latest #1 record. Hat’s off to the timeless Diana Ross and Valerie Simpson! Ain’t no mountain high enough, indeed!
Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP.
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