As songwriters, Ashford and his wife Valerie Simpson, created some major Motown hits, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)" - both were hits for Diana Ross.
For Chaka Khan, they wrote the anthem, "I'm Every Woman."
They had tremendous success with "Solid as a Rock," which they wrote for themselves in the 1980s. The two never stopped performing.
Ashford and Simpson's relationship stretched more than four decades. They met in 1964 in a New York City church. Ashford, a South Carolina native, had come to the city to pursue a dance career. Simpson was a music student, and after connecting with her, they decided to start to write songs together.
In 2002, Ashford & Simpson were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Ashford is survived by his wife of 38 years and their two daughters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.