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Benjamin Earl King[1] (born Benjamin Earl Nelson, September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015) was an American soul and R&B singer and record producer. He is best known as the singer and co-composer of "Stand by Me"—a U.S. Top 10 hit, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the United Kingdom in 1987, and no. 25 on the RIAA's list of Songs of the Century—and as one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group The Drifters, notably singing the lead vocals of one of their biggest global hit singles (and only U.S. #1 hit) "Save the Last Dance for Me".[2]

Early life[]

King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson on September 28, 1938, in Henderson, North Carolina,[2] and moved to Harlem, New York, at the age of nine in 1947.[3] King began singing in church choirs, and in high school formed the Four B’s, a doo-wop group that occasionally performed at the Apollo.[4]


The Drifters[]

In 1958, King (still using his birth name) joined a doo-wop group called the Five Crowns.[4] Later that year, the Drifters' manager George Treadwell fired the members of the original Drifters, and replaced them with the members of the Five Crowns.[5]

King had a string of R&B hits with the group on Atlantic Records. He co-wrote and sang lead on the first Atlantic hit by the new version of the Drifters, "There Goes My Baby" (1959). He sang lead on a succession of hits by the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, including "Save the Last Dance for Me", "This Magic Moment", and "I Count the Tears".[2] King recorded only thirteen songs with the Template:Nowraptwo backing other lead singers and eleven lead vocal Template:Nowrapincluding a non-single called "Temptation" (later redone by Drifters vocalist Johnny Moore). The last of the King-led Drifters singles to be released was "Sometimes I Wonder", which was recorded May 19, 1960, but not issued until June 1962.[6]

Due to contract disputes with Treadwell in which King and his manager, Lover Patterson, demanded greater compensation, King rarely performed with the Drifters on tour or on television. On television, fellow Drifters member Charlie Thomas usually lip-synched the songs that King had recorded with the Drifters.[7]

Solo career[]

In May 1960, King left the Drifters,[2] assuming the stage name Ben E. King in preparation for a solo career. Remaining with Atlantic Records on its Atco imprint, King scored his first solo hit with the ballad "Spanish Harlem" (1961).[2]

His next single, "Stand by Me", written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, ultimately would be voted as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America. King cited singers Brook Benton, Roy Hamilton and Sam Cooke as influences for his vocals of the song.[8] "Stand by Me", "There Goes My Baby", "Spanish Harlem", and "Save the Last Dance for Me" were all named in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll;[9] and each of those records has earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.[10] King's other well-known songs include "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)", "Amor", "Seven Letters", "How Can I Forget", "On the Horizon", "Young Boy Blues", "First Taste of Love", "Here Comes the Night", "Ecstasy", and "That's When It Hurts". In the summer of 1963, King had a Top 30 hit with "I (Who Have Nothing)", which reached the Top 10 on New York's radio station, WMCA.[11]

King's records continued to place well on the Billboard Hot 100 chart until 1965. British pop bands began to dominate the pop music scene, but King still continued to make R&B hits, including "What is Soul?" (1966), "Tears, Tears, Tears" (1967), and the Top 5 Pop smash (#1 R&B) "Supernatural Thing" (1975).[4]

King returned to the Drifters in late 1982 in England, and sang with them until the group's break-up and reorganization in 1986.[12] From 1983 until the band's break-up, the other members of this incarnation of the Drifters were Johnny Moore, Joe Blunt, and Clyde Brown.Template:Cn

A 1986 re-issue of "Stand by Me" followed the song's use as the theme song to the movie Stand By Me and re-entered the Billboard Top Ten after a 25-year absence. This reissue also reached Number 1 in the United Kingdom and Ireland for three weeks in February 1987.[4] The reissue also made King the first act to reach the Hot 100's top 10 in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, either as a member of an act that reached that high (in this case, The Drifters) or as a solo act that did.[13]

In 1990, King and Bo Diddley, along with Doug Lazy, recorded a revamped hip hop version of the Monotones' 1958 hit song "Book of Love" for the soundtrack of the movie Book of Love. He also recorded a children's album, I Have Songs In My Pocket, written and produced by children's music artist Bobby Susser in 1998, which won the Early Childhood News Directors' Choice Award and Dr. Toy's/the Institute for Childhood Resources Award. King performed "Stand by Me" on the Late Show with David Letterman in 2007. Ahmet Ertegun said, "King is one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll and rhythm and blues."[14]

As a Drifter and as a solo artist, King had achieved five number one hits: "There Goes My Baby", "Save the Last Dance for Me", "Stand By Me", "Supernatural Thing", and the 1986 re-issue of "Stand By Me". He also earned 12 Top 10 hits and 26 Top 40 hits from 1959 to 1986. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Drifter;[15] he was also nominated as a solo artist.[16]

File:Ben E. King in 2012.jpg

King performing at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 31, 2012

King's "I (Who Have Nothing)" was selected for the Sopranos Peppers and Eggs Soundtrack CD (2001).[17]

King was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.[18]

On March 27, 2012, the Songwriters Hall of Fame announced that "Stand By Me" would receive its 2012 Towering Song Award and that King would be honored with the 2012 Towering Performance Award for his recording of the song.[19]

Later life[]

King was active in his charitable foundation, the Stand By Me Foundation, which helps to provide education to deserving youths.[8][20] He was a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey, from the late 1960s.[21]

King performed "Stand By Me" during a televised tribute to late comedian George Carlin, as he was one of Carlin's favorite artists.[22]

On November 11, 2010, he performed "Stand By Me" on the Latin Grammys with Prince Royce.[23]

King toured the United Kingdom in 2013 and played concerts in the United States as late as 2014, despite reported health problems.[24]


King died at the Hackensack University Medical Center on April 30, 2015 at the age of 76.[24][25] His agent said he had suffered from "coronary problems" at the time of his death.[3] King was survived by his wife of 51 years, Betty, three children and six grandchildren.


King has been covered by acts from several genres. "So Much Love" was recorded by Dusty Springfield and many others.[26] "I (Who Have Nothing)" was performed by Shirley Bassey in 1963 and also by Tom Jones in 1970, as well as a 1979 recording by Sylvester. "Till I Can't Take It Anymore" was revisited by peer Ray Charles in 1970 and "Spanish Harlem" was sung by Aretha Franklin in 1971. "Stand by Me" was covered by The Righteous Brothers, Otis Redding, John Lennon, Mickey Gilley, Florence + The Machine, and Tracy Chapman. King also inspired a number of rock bands: Siouxsie and the Banshees recorded "Supernatural Thing" in 1981 and Led Zeppelin did a cover version of "Groovin'", more known under the title of "We're Gonna Groove".[27]

On May 19, 2018 King's "Stand By Me" was performed at the Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle by Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir.



Template:Div col

  • Spanish Harlem (1961, Atco) US: #57 UK: #30[28]
  • Ben E. King Sings for Soulful Lovers (1962)
  • Don't Play That Song! (1962)
  • Young Boy Blues (1964)
  • Ben E. King's Greatest Hits (1964)
  • Seven Letters (1965)
  • What Is Soul (1967)
  • Rough Edges (1970, Maxwell)
  • The Beginning of It All (1972, Mandala)
  • Supernatural (1975, Atlantic) US: #39
  • I Had a Love (1976)
  • Rhapsody (1976)
  • Let Me Live in Your Life (1978)
  • Music Trance (1980)
  • Street Tough (1981)
  • Save the Last Dance for Me (1987, EMI-Manhattan)
  • Stand by Me: The Ultimate Collection (1987, Atlantic) UK: #14[28]
  • What's Important to Me (1991, Ichiban)
  • Anthology (1993, Rhino)
  • Shades of Blue (1993, Half Note)
  • I Have Songs in My Pocket (1998, Bobby Susser)
  • The Very Best of Ben E. King (1998, Rhino) UK: #15[28]
  • Eleven Best (2001, Cleopatra)
  • Person To Person: Live At The Blue Note (2003, Half Note)
  • Soul Masters (2005, Digital Music Group)
  • I've Been Around (2006, True Life)
  • Love Is Gonna Get You (2007, Synergy)
  • Heart & Soul (2010–2011, CanAm Records)
  • Dear Japan (2011, United Artists)

Template:Div col end

Other albums[]

  • Benny and Us (1977) US: #33 (Average White Band & Ben E. King)
  • The Atlantic Family Live at Montreux (1977) (with the Average White Band and other artists)
  • Soul Clan (1968) (as a member of the Soul Clan)

Singles with the Drifters (singing lead)[]

  • "There Goes My Baby" (1959) R&B: #1 US: #2[29]
  • "Oh My Love" (1959)
  • "Dance with Me" (1959) R&B: #2 US: #15 UK: #17
  • "This Magic Moment" (1960) R&B: #4 US: #16
  • "Lonely Winds" (1960) R&B: #9 US: #54
  • "Hey Señorita" (1960)
  • "Save the Last Dance for Me" (1960) R&B: #1 US: #1 UK: #2
  • "Nobody But Me" (1960)
  • "I Count the Tears" (1960) US: #17 UK: #28
  • "Sometimes I Wonder" (1962)

Solo singles[]

Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Year Label and catalogue number Chart positions Album
US Hot 100 CB US R&B UK
"Show Me the Way"
b/w "Brace Yourself"
May 1960 Atco 6166 Don't Play That Song!
"A Help-Each-Other Romance"
b/w "How Often"
Both sides with LaVern Baker
Jun 1960 Atlantic 2067 105 Non-album tracks
"First Taste of Love" / Nov 1960 Atco 6185 53 91 27 Don't Play That Song!
"Spanish Harlem" 10 9 15 Spanish Harlem
"Stand by Me"
b/w "On the Horizon"
Apr 1961 Atco 6194 4 3 1 27 Don't Play That Song!
b/w "Souvenir of Mexico"
Jul 1961 Atco 6203 18 19 10 38 Spanish Harlem
"Here Comes the Night" / Sep 1961 Atco 6207 81 Don't Play That Song!
"Young Boy Blues" / 66 86
b/w "Yes"
Jan 1962 Atco 6215 56 50
"Don't Play That Song (You Lied)"
b/w "The Hermit of Misty Mountain"
Apr 1962 Atco 6222 11 11 2
"Too Bad"
b/w "My Heart Cries for You" (from Ben E. King Sings for Soulful Lovers)
Jul 1962 Atco 6231 88 88 Non-album track
"I'm Standing By"
b/w "Walking in the Footsteps of a Fool" (Non-album track)
Oct 1962 Atco 6237 111 123 Seven Letters
"Tell Daddy"
b/w "Auf Weidersehn, My Dear" (from Ben E. King's Greatest Hits)
Dec 1962 Atco 6246 122 138 29 Non-album track
"How Can I Forget"
b/w "Gloria Gloria" (from Young Boy Blues)
Feb 1963 Atco 6256 85 82 23 Ben E. King's Greatest Hits
"I (Who Have Nothing)"
b/w "The Beginning of Time" (Non-album track)
Jun 1963 Atco 6237 29 25 16
"I Could Have Danced All Night"
b/w "Gypsy" (Non-album track)
Oct 1963 Atco 6275 72 112
"What Now My Love"
b/w "Groovin'" (Non-album track)
Jan 1964 Atco 6284 102 132
"That's When It Hurts" / Mar 1964 Atco 6288 63 57 17
"Around the Corner" 125
b/w "QUEL TUO BACIO" (only release in Italy)
Jan 1964 Atco 6246 Non-album track
"What Can a Man Do"
b/w "Si Senor" (from Seven Letters)
Jan 1964 Atco 6303 113 106 39 Non-album track
"It's All Over" / Sep 1964 Atco 6315 72 93 40 Seven Letters
"Let The Water Run Down" 144
"Seven Letters"
b/w "River of Tears"
Dec 1964 Atco 6328 45 58 11
"The Record (Baby I Love You)"
b/w "The Way You Shake It"
Mar 1965 Atco 6343 84 105 24 Non-album tracks
"She's Gone Again"
b/w "Not Now (I'll Tell You When)"
May 1965 Atco 6357 128
"Cry No More"
b/w "(There's) No Place to Hide"
Aug 1965 Atco 6371
"Goodnight My Love"
b/w "I Can't Break the News to Myself"
Dec 1965 Atco 6390 91 87
"So Much Love"
b/w "Don't Drive Me Away" (from Seven Letters)
Apr 1966 Atco 6413 96 54
"I Swear by Stars Above"
b/w "Get in a Hurry"
Aug 1966 Atco 6431 35
"What Is Soul?"
b/w "They Don't Give Medals to Yesterday's Heroes"
Nov 1966 Atco 6454 113 38
"Tears, Tears, Tears"
b/w "A Man Without a Dream"
Mar 1967 Atco 6472 93 105 34
b/w "Teeny Weeny Little Bit"
Jun 1967 Atco 6493 113
"Don't Take Your Sweet Love Away"
b/w "She Knows What to Do for Me"
Sep 1967 Atco 6527 44
"We Got a Thing Goin' On"
b/w "What 'Cha Gonna Do About It"
Both sides with Dee Dee Sharp
Feb 1968 Atco 6557 127 122
"Don't Take Your Love from Me"
b/w "Forgive This Fool"
Apr 1968 Atco 6571 117
"Soul Meeting"
b/w "That's How It Feels"
Both sides as part of The Soul Clan
Jun 1968 Atlantic 2530 34
"It's Amazing"
b/w "Where's the Girl"
Jul 1968 Atco 6596
"Til I Can't Take It Anymore"
b/w "It Ain't Fair"
Dec 1968 Atco 6637 134 135 45
"Hey Little One"
b/w "When You Love Someone"
Apr 1969 Atco 6666
"I Can't Take It Like a Man"
b/w "Goodbye My Old Gal"
Nov 1969 Maxwell 800 45
"In the Midnight Hour/Lay Lady Lay"
b/w "When You Love Someone" (Non-album track)
Jul 1970 Maxwell 88001 Rough Edges
"Take Me to the Pilot"
b/w "I Guess It's Goodbye"
1972 Mandala 2512 The Beginning of It All
"Into the Mystic"
b/w "White Moon"
1972 Mandala 2513
"Spread Myself Around"
b/w "I Guess It's Goodbye" (from The Beginning of It All)
1973 Mandala 2518 Non-album track
"Supernatural Thing"—Part 1
b/w Part 2
Jan 1975 Atlantic 3241 5 9 1 Supernatural
"Do It in the Name of Love"
b/w "Imagination"
May 1975 Atlantic 3274 60 64 4
"I Had a Love"
b/w "We Got Love"
Dec 1975 Atlantic 3308 104 23 I Had a Love
"I Betcha Didn't Know That"
b/w "Smooth Sailing"
Jun 1976 Atlantic 3337
"Somebody's Knocking"
b/w "One More Time"
Sep 1976 Atlantic 3359 Non-album tracks
"Get It Up"
b/w "Keepin' It to Myself"
Both tracks with Average White Band
May 1977 Atlantic 3402 21 Benny and Us (with Average White Band)
"A Star in the Ghetto"
b/w "What Is Soul"
Both tracks with Average White Band
Sep 1977 Atlantic 3427 25
"Fool for You Anyway"
b/w "The Message"
Both tracks with Average White Band
Nov 1977 Atlantic 3444
b/w "I See the Light"
Aug 1978 Atlantic 3494 Let Me Live In Your Life
b/w "Fly Away to My Wonderland"
Nov 1978 Atlantic 3535
"Music Trance"
b/w "And This Is Love"
Jan 1980 Atlantic 3635 29 Music Trance
"Street Tough"
b/w "Why Is the Question"
Apr 1981 Atlantic 3808 Street Tough
"Souvenirs of Love"
b/w "You Made the Difference to My Life"
Jul 1981 Atlantic 3839
"Stand by Me"
Reissue of King's 1961 hit
B-side by The Coasters: "Yakety Yak"
Sep 1986 Atlantic 89361 9 10 1 Stand by Me: The Best of Ben E. King and Ben E. King with the Drifters
"Spanish Harlem"
Reissue of King's 1960 hit
b/w "First Taste of Love"
Mar 1987 Atlantic 89234 92
"Save the Last Dance for Me"
Re-recording of King's 1960 hit as lead singer of The Drifters
b/w "Wheel of Love" (Non-album track)
Jun 1987 Manhattan 50078 69 Save the Last Dance for Me
"What's Important to Me"
b/w "It's Your Love (That Makes Me Happy)"
1991 Ichiban 711 What's Important To Me
"You've Got All of Me"
b/w "It's All Right"
1992 Ichiban 254
"You Still Move Me"
b/w "I'm Gonna Be Somebody"
1992 Ichiban 257
"4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)"
B-side by Mrs. Fun/Tina & The B-side Movement: "Janey Don't You Lose Your Heart"
1992 The Right Stuff 72878[28] Non-album tracks


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  21. Beckerman, Jim. "Ben E. King can't stop the music"Template:Dead link, The Record (Bergen County), May 10, 2008. Accessed March 1, 2009.
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External links[]