Ben E. King
|Ben E. King|
Ben E. King, 2007
|Birth name||Benjamin Earl Nelson|
|Also known as||Ben E. King|
September 28, 1938|
Henderson, North Carolina, United States
|Origin||Harlem, New York|
|Died||April 30, 2015
Hackensack, New Jersey, United States
|Genres||Soul, R&B, pop, doo-wop|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, record producer|
|Associated acts||The Drifters
The Five Crowns
Benjamin Earl King (September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015), known as Ben E. King, was an American soul and R&B singer and record producer. He was perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of "Stand by Me"—a US 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 UK 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".
King was born, with the birth name of Benjamin Earl Nelson, on September 28, 1938, in Henderson, North Carolina, and moved to Harlem, New York, at the age of nine in 1947. 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.
In 1958, King (still using his birth name) joined a doo-wop group called the Five Crowns. 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. 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 also 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". King recorded only thirteen songs with the Drifters—two backing other lead singers and eleven lead vocal performances—including 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.
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.
In May 1960, King left the Drifters, 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). 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. "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; and each of those records has earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. 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.
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 "Supernatural Thing" (1975). 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.
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."
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; he was also nominated as a solo artist.
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.
King was active in his charitable foundation, the Stand By Me Foundation, which helps to provide education to deserving youths. He was a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey, from the late 1960s.
It was announced on May 1, 2015, that King had died at the Hackensack University Medical Center on April 30, 2015, at the age of 76. His agent said he had suffered from "coronary problems" at the time of his death. King was survived by his wife of 51 years, Betty, three children and six grandchildren. On May 17, two weeks after his death, Imagine Dragons performed "Stand By Me" at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards as a tribute to his memory.
King has been covered by acts from several genres. "So Much Love" was recorded by Dusty Springfield and many others. "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 Otis Redding, John Lennon and Mickey Gilley. King also inspired several 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".
- Spanish Harlem (1961, Atco) US: #57 UK: #30
- 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 (1980)
- Save the Last Dance for Me (1987, EMI-Manhattan)
- Stand by Me: The Ultimate Collection (1987, Atlantic) UK: #14
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- "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)
Nationally charted hits are shown in bold.
|A-Side||B-Side||Year||Label and catalogue number||Chart positions|
|US Hot 100||CB||US R&B||UK|
|Show Me the Way||Brace Yourself||May 1960||Atco 6166|
|A Help-Each-Other Romance (with LaVern Baker)||How Often (with LaVern Baker)||Jun 1960||Atantic 2067||105|
|First Taste Of Love||Nov 1960||Atco 6185||53||91||27|
|Stand by Me||On The Horizon||Apr 1961||Atco 6194||4||3||1||27|
|Amor||Souvenir Of Mexico||Jul 1961||Atco 6203||18||19||10||38|
|Here Comes The Night||Sep 1961||Atco 6207||81|
|Young Boy Blues||66||86|
|Ecstasy||Yes||Jan 1962||Atco 6215||56||50|
|Don't Play That Song (You Lied)||The Hermit Of Misty Mountain||Apr 1962||Atco 6222||11||11||2|
|Too Bad||My Heart Cries For You||Jul 1962||Atco 6231||88||88|
|I'm Standing By||Walking In The Footsteps Of A Fool||Oct 1962||Atco 6237||111||123|
|Tell Daddy||Auf Weidersehn, My Dear||Dec 1962||Atco 6246||122||138||29|
|How Can I Forget||Gloria Gloria||Feb 1963||Atco 6256||85||82||23|
|I (Who Have Nothing)||The Beginning of Time||Jun 1963||Atco 6237||29||25||16|
|I Could Have Danced All Night||Gypsy||Oct 1963||Atco 6275||72||112|
|Amore Quando||Quel tuo bacio||Dec 1963||Atlantic (released only in Italy)|
|What Now My Love||Groovin'||Jan 1964||Atco 6284||102||132|
|That's When It Hurts||Mar 1964||Atco 6288||63||57||17|
|Around The Corner||125|
|What Can A Man Do||Si Senor||Jan 1964||Atco 6303||113||106||39|
|It's All Over||Sep 1964||Atco 6315||72||93||40|
|Let the Water Run Down||144|
|Seven Letters||River Of Tears||Dec 1964||Atco 6328||45||58||11|
|The Record (Baby I Love You)||The Way You Shake It||Mar 1965||Atco 6343||84||105||24|
|She's Gone Again||Not Now (I'll Tell You When)||May 1965||Atco 6357||128|
|Cry No More||(There's) No Place To Hide||Aug 1965||Atco 6371|
|Goodnight My Love||I Can't Break The News To Myself||Dec 1965||Atco 6390||91||87|
|So Much Love||Don't Drive Me Away||Apr 1966||Atco 6413||96||54|
|I Swear By Stars Above||Get In A Hurry||Aug 1966||Atco 6431||35|
|What Is Soul?||They Don't Give Medals to Yesterday's Heroes||Nov 1966||Atco 6454||113||38|
|Tears, Tears, Tears||A Man Without a Dream||Mar 1967||Atco 6472||93||105||34|
|Katherine||Teeny Weeny Little Bit||Jun 1967||Atco 6493||113|
|Don't Take Your Sweet Love Away||She Knows What To Do For Me||Sep 1967||Atco 6527||44|
|We Got a Thing Goin' On (with Dee Dee Sharp)||What 'Cha Gonna Do About It (with Dee Dee Sharp)||Feb 1968||Atco 6557||127||122|
|Don't Take Your Love From Me||Forgive This Fool||Apr 1968||Atco 6571||117|
(as part of The Soul Clan)
|That's How It Feels
(as part of The Soul Clan)
|Jun 1968||Atantic 2530||34|
|It's Amazing||Where's The Girl||Jul 1968||Atco 6596|
|Til I Can't Take It Anymore||It Ain't Fair||Dec 1968||Atco 6637||134||135||45|
|Hey Little One||When You Love Someone||Apr 1969||Atco 6666|
|I Can't Take It Like A Man||Goodbye My Old Gal||Nov 1969||Maxwell 800||45|
|In The Midnight Hour/Lay Lady Lay (Medley)||When You Love Someone||Jul 1970||Maxwell 88001|
|Take Me To The Pilot||I Guess It's Goodbye||1972||Mandala 2512|
|Into The Mystic||White Moon||1972||Mandala 2513|
|Spread Myself Around||I Guess It's Goodbye||1973||Mandala 2518|
|Supernatural Thing, Part I||Part II||Jan 1975||Atlantic 3241||5||9||1|
|Do It in the Name of Love||Imagination||May 1975||Atlantic 3274||60||64||4|
|I Had a Love||We Got Love||Dec 1975||Atlantic 3308||104||23|
|I Betcha Didn't Know That||Smooth Sailing||Jun 1976||Atlantic 3337|
|Somebody's Knocking||One More Time||Sep 1976||Atlantic 3359|
|Get It Up (with Average White Band)||Keepin' It To Myself (with Average White Band)||May 1977||Atlantic 3402||21|
|A Star In The Ghetto (with Average White Band)||What Is Soul (with Average White Band)||Sep 1977||Atlantic 3427||25|
|Fool For You Anyway (with Average White Band)||The Message (with Average White Band)||Nov 1977||Atlantic 3444|
|Tippin||I See The Light||Aug 1978||Atlantic 3494|
|Spoiled||Fly Away To My Wonderland||Nov 1978||Atlantic 3535|
|Music Trance||And This Is Love||Jan 1980||Atlantic 3635||29|
|Street Tough||Why Is The Question||Apr 1981||Atlantic 3808|
|Souvenirs Of Love||You Made The Difference To My Life||Jul 1981||Atlantic 3839|
|Stand by Me
(a reissue of King's 1961 hit)
|(The Coasters: "Yakety Yak")||Sep 1986||Atlantic 89361||9||10||1|
(a reissue of King's 1960 hit)
|First Taste Of Love||Mar 1987||Atlantic 89234||92|
|Save the Last Dance for Me
(a re-recording of King's 1960 hit as lead singer of The Drifters)
|Wheel Of Love||Jun 1987||Manhattan 50078||69|
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- "The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs (Music From the HBO Original Series)". AllMusic. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
- "2009 Inductees". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
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