"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" is a pop/soul song written by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson in 1966 for the Tamla label, a division of Motown. The composition was first successful as a 1967 hit single recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, and became a hit again in 1970 when recorded by former Supremes frontwoman Diana Ross. The song became Ross's first solo number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
The song was written by Ashford and Simpson prior to joining Motown. British soul singer Dusty Springfield wanted to record the song but the duo declined, hoping it would give them access to the Detroit-based label. As Valerie Simpson later recalled, "We played that song for her (Springfield) but wouldn't give it to her, because we wanted to hold that back. We felt like that could be our entry to Motown. Nick called it the 'golden egg'." Springfield recorded a similar verse melody in "I'm Gonna Leave You" on Dusty.
The original 1967 version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was a top twenty hit. According to record producers, Terrell was a little nervous and intimidated during the recording sessions because she did not rehearse the lyrics. Terrell recorded her vocals alone with producers Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol, who added Gaye's vocal at a later date. "Ain't No Mountain" peaked at number nineteen on the Billboard pop charts, and went to number three on the R&B charts. Billboard's original review of the single stated "Chalk up another pulsating fast smash for Gaye with his new partner Tammi Terrell. The electricity of the duo combined with the blockbuster rhythm material grooves all the way."
This original version of "Ain't No Mountain", produced by Fuqua and Bristol, was a care-free, danceable, and romantic love song that became the signature duet between Gaye and Terrell. Its success led to a string of more Ashford/Simpson penned duets (including "You're All I Need to Get By", "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", and "Your Precious Love"). In 1999, the Gaye/Terrell version was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The Gaye/Terrell version was included in the soundtrack for the 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy.
- All vocals by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
- Instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and Detroit Symphony Orchestra
|US Billboard Hot 100||19|
|US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)||3|
|UK Singles (OCC)||80|
|Denmark (IFPI Danmark)||Platinum||90,000|
|United Kingdom (BPI)
Digital sales since 2004
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
The Supremes and Temptations version
Diana Ross & the Supremes recorded a version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", which was more faithful to the Terrell-Gaye original version, as a duet with the Temptations. That song was an album cut from a joint LP released by Motown Records in 1968 on the two superstar groups, titled Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations.
Diana Ross solo version
In spring 1970, after the Top 20 success of her first solo single, "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)", Ashford and Simpson had Ross re-record "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". Initially, Ross was apprehensive, but was convinced to make the recording. The remake was a complete reworking of the song, featuring a style similar to gospel with elements of classical music strings and horns, and spoken word passages from Ross. The Andantes, Jimmy Beavers, Jo Armstead, Ashford & Simpson and Brenda Evans and Billie Calvin of the Undisputed Truth were used as backing singers, giving the song a soul and gospel vocal element. Ross' version of the song was released on July 19, 1970 as the second and final single from her solo self-titled 1970 debut album by Motown.
Motown chief Berry Gordy did not like the record upon first hearing it. He hated the spoken-word passages and wanted the song to begin with the climactic chorus/bridge. It was not until radio stations nationwide were editing their own versions and adding it to their playlists that Ashford and Simpson were able to convince Gordy to release an edited three-minute version as a single. Ross' version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" rose up to number one on both the pop and R&B singles charts. Ross received a Grammy nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. This version is in the key of C minor for most of the song, then towards the end, the key changes to F sharp major.
In 2017, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was remixed by Eric Kupper, StoneBridge and Chris Cox, amongst others, on Motown/UMe. The new remix went to number one on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart.
- Lead vocals by Diana Ross
- Background vocals by Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson, Jo Armstead, the Andantes, Jimmy Beavers, Brenda Evans, and Billie Calvin
- Instrumentation by the Funk Brothers
- Brass and strings by New York session musicians
- Arranged by Paul Riser.
Other notable covers
- In 1981, American disco band Inner Life released their version, which reached No. 20 on the U.S. Dance chart. It is particularly noted for the 10 minute Larry Levan remix.
- In 1981, Boys Town Gang recorded a medley of the song "Remember Me" together with "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". The single was a No. 5 U.S. Dance hit and a top 20 hit in Belgium and the Netherlands.
- In 1991, Australian singer Jimmy Barnes released an album of soul remakes titled Soul Deep, including his rock version of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough". His version reached No. 28 in Australia in 1992.
- In 2018, a remix of the Diana Ross version reached No. 1 on the US Dance Club Songs chart.
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