Remembering ‘Stand By Me’ Soul Singer, Ben E. King
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson in North Carolina, R&B soul singer Ben E. King moved to New York as a boy and first found success for the classic song “Stand By Me.” There have been countless renditions of the song done by popular artists all over the world and even a movie by the same name. Although King died at the age of 76, his legacy lives on.
King started his career in the late 1950s with The Drifters, singing hits including There Goes My Baby and Save The Last Dance For Me.
After going solo, he hit the US top five with “Stand By Me” in 1961. It returned to the charts in the 1980s, including a three-week spell at number one in the UK following its use in the film of the same name and a TV advert.
King’s other hits included Spanish Harlem, Amor, Don’t Play That Song (You Lied) and Supernatural Thing – Part I.
But he is remembered most for “Stand By Me,” inspired by a gospel song, which he recorded on his own. Filled by King’s elegant baritone, the tune was a top 10 hit in the U.S. in 1961 and returned to the charts 25 years later when it was prominently featured in “Stand By Me,” Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming-of-age movie about four adolescent boys.
The song has been covered hundreds of times and has long been a staple at weddings. The Recording Industry Association of America voted it one of the 25 top songs of the 20th century, and music-rights organization BMI named it the fourth-most played song of the century on radio and TV.
In March 2015 the Library of Congress inducted King’s original version into the National Recording Registry, saying “it was King’s incandescent vocal that made it a classic.”