Rooting for Celebrity Marriages

Black celebrity marriages are making headlines this week: musical duo Ashford and Simpson’s for its endurance and Will and Jada Smith’s for its possible breakdown. How important are these relationships to the African American community?

Beautiful Songs Emerge from a Beautiful Relationship

When news broke that Nick Ashford, half of the renowned Motown songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, died of throat cancer Monday at age 70, not only were the songs he wrote with his wife Valerie Simpson legendary, but so was their 38-year marriage.

The duo wrote some of Motown’s biggest hits for artists like Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, and Chaka Khan, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” for Ross, “You’re All I Need To Get By” for Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and “I’m Every Woman” for Khan. They also wrote hits for themselves, the best known of which was “Solid As A Rock and, according to the Associated Press (AP), they are credited as co-writers on Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own.”

Ashford and Simpson met in 1964 at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church, USA Today reported.

“They were always comfortable with each other and they made all of us comfortable, because they were comfortable,” Verdine White of Earth, Wind and Fire told AP. “The thing is they were married and working together, that was what was special about them. Everybody admired that.”

“They generated excitement onstage with the tall, leonine Ashford trading harmonies with the sultry Simpson,” Steve Jones wrote at USA Today.

“Their love gave voice to Tammi Terrel and Marvin Gaye,” wrote Oretha Winston at Elev8. “When I was growing up that’s how I learned about the expression of love and true friendship. It was from listening to those songs.”

The Importantance of the Pinkett-Smiths

Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s marriage was in the news too, but only because of conflicting reports that it is in trouble.

Writer Morris W. O’Kelly waxed eloquent in The Atlanta Post on why Will and Jada’s marriage matters:

For whatever many and unfortunate reasons, marriage within the African-American community is the exception, not the rule. You bet, I’m rooting for Will and Jada. The husband is best known for a music and acting career in no way connected to misogyny, drugs and buffoonery. His millions aren’t tainted with the stain of calling women B****s and men N****s, year after year after year. It is what separates him from the likes of a Jay-Z, who at 41 is still as lyrically irresponsible as he was at 21, disrespecting the whole of Black people for a buck. Mind you, this is after his previous career as a drug dealer. It’s not about the money amassed, it’s about the responsibility accepted (or refused) along the way. Integrity matters. Her name is best known for co-starring in TV shows about African-Americans in college (of all things) and running a nursing staff and a host of movies in between the two. These facts speak to the importance of Will and Jada and their substantive contributions.

O’Kelly goes on to add that the couple is the closest thing his generation has to the iconic Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.

What do you think? Are successful Black celebrity marriages important?