This was written by the Motown husband and wife songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson. Nick Ashford was inspired by an experience when he first moved to New York. He was walking down a Manhattan thoroughfare, determined that New York City would not get the best of him; the words "Ain't no mountain high enough" popped into his head.
She had many hits with The Supremes, but this was Diana Ross' first US #1 solo hit.
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell recorded the original hit version peaking at #19 in the US in 1967. Uriel Jones of The Funk Brothers, who played the drums on Gaye and Terrell's original version, recalled in Mojo magazine February 2009: "Ashford and Simpson had written the song and they always came to the studio with charts. This time was no exception; they came with the song fully written out. The lyrics were written out too. They were one of the few producers and writers who had full charts and made us work from them. They knew 95 percent what they wanted to hear. Johnny Bristol and Harvey Faqua were the actual producers in charge of the recording. We did the rhythm track first, then they put the horns on second. Then they recorded Tammi Terrell's vocal, then they did Marvin Gaye's next. Each vocal was done separately, the singer in the studio with the producer on their own, and they put it all together at the end. You know, I never heard the finished song until I switched on the radio and it was playing."
Amy Winehouse's 2007 single "Tears Dry On Their Own" is based around the backing instrumentation of this song. Ashford & Simpson were also credited on Jessica Simpson's 2006 transatlantic Top 20 single "A Public Affair," as towards the end of the song, the background vocalists can be heard singing a few lines of "aaah, aaah, aaah" in a clear duplication from "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
Diana Ross' second husband, Norwegian shipping magnate Arne Næss, Jr., died in a South African mountain climbing accident in 2004.
With a message of overcoming any obstacle, this song is a great fit for politicians seeking office. Hillary Clinton used it a great deal in her 2016 campaign for president, especially when courting male voters who might not connect with her main campaign song: "Fight Song
" by Rachel Platten.
The informal contraction "ain't" is frowned upon by strict grammarians, who would also cringe at the double negative that is "ain't no," but "There Isn't Any Mountain High Enough" doesn't quite have the same ring to it.
Michael McDonald covered this for his 2003 Motown covers album, titled Motown
. His version reached #111 in the US and got a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance (he lost to Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River
This song has popped up in a number of movies and TV series. The Diana Ross version shows up in these:
Good Times ("The Break Up" - 1976)
Designing Women ("The Rowdy Girls" - 1989)
The Wonder Years ("The Pimple" - 1989)
Nip/Tuck ("Joel Gideon" - 2004)
Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
Chicken Little (2005)
The Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell version appear in these films:
Remember the Titans (2000)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) - This was big: It was part of the soundtrack, which went to #1 in America. Chris Pratt's character plays a mixtape given to him by his mom (the Awesome Mix Vol. 1) throughout the film. Near the end, he discovers Vol. 2. When he pops in the tape, this song plays.
Other movie uses of the song include:
The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), where a Michael McDonald DVD plays the song.
Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993), where the nuns, including Lauryn Hill, sing it over the end credits.
In TV, Nia Peeples and Janet Jackson sang it in a 1985 episode of Fame, and Will Smith did it on a 1992 episode of his series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.