The prolific writing duo of Nick Ashford & Valerie Simpson, who would later receive acclaim as one of the best vocal duos in the history of contemporary music, wrote the song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for Motown superstars Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrrell. That original 1967 recording was very successful, but only went to #19 on the Billboard Charts. It wasn’t until Diana Ross re-recorded it in 1970 that it went to #1. With two very different arrangements, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was recorded by two of the most iconic acts to come out of Motown within the short period of three years, each time reaching the Top 20. Although Diana Ross’ version sold over 1.5 million copies, it’s the original Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell version that has stood the test of time.
I personally rediscovered “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” when Whoopi Goldberg playfully performed a “Vegas” arrangement in “Sister Act II”. Years later, the original served as the basis for a sing-along in the Denzel Washington film “Remember The Titans” (introducing an impossibly scrawny, young Ryan Gosling.) Most recently it was highlighted in “Guardians Of The Galaxy.”
Why, or how, a work of art becomes so deeply ingrained in the pop culture of generation after generation is impossible to specifically articulate. But very few pop songs have remained so eternally fresh, and so solidly entrenched into the “Mount Rushmore” of great American songs as “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” With its emergence into the soundtrack of so many movies, the song is constantly being reintroduced to new generations of both music and movie lovers. It truly is a terrific song, and remains a perrenial favorite at weddings and parties because of its instant familiarity to guests who’ve heard it so many times for the past fifty years.
Let me know what you think.