Ain't no mountain high enough

A comprehensive guide to a faux & twee sixties masterpiece

Background & History

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” is a song written by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson in 1966 for the Tamla Motown label.

- The composition was first successful as a 1967 hit single recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, becoming a hit again in 1970 when recorded by former Supremes frontwoman Diana Ross.

- The song became Ross’ first solo number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was nominated for a Grammy Award.

- The original 1967 version had achieved a slightly more resounding success, it peaked at number nineteen on the Billboard pop charts and number three in the R&B charts.

Relevant Versions

Musical analysis

The song is written in D minor and features basic tonal functions as it is to be expected from R&B music. It has countless chromatisms in the bass line as well as mode swaps, which offer a bit of colour and depth to a chord progression that would otherwise be too reliant on the subdominant function and could appear boring and tiresome. Concerning rythm, it relies heavily on sincopation, which provides the melody with a sweeping rythm that helps the lyrics flow and create the naive and motivating atmosphere this song is well-known for.

Comment on the lyrics

The lyrics are too lame, twee and overall superficial to move anyone, but in their favor we must say they are fresh, motivating and invigorating. Unfortunately these qualities have earned this song a top position in girls films such as “Girl’s guide to hunting and fishing” or “The sisterhood of blue jeans”. These lyrics should also be credited for coming up with the expression "bae" that has now taken over Instagram. Ashford and Simpson were really ahead of their time.

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