Ben E. King

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other people with similar names, see Ben King (disambiguation).
Ben E. King
Ben E. King2.jpg
Ben E. King, 2007
Background information
Birth name Benjamin Earl Nelson
Also known as Ben E. King
Born (1938-09-28)September 28, 1938
Henderson, North Carolina, United States
Origin Harlem, New York
Died April 30, 2015(2015-04-30) (aged 76)
Hackensack, New Jersey, United States
Genres Soul, R&B, pop, doo-wop
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter, record producer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1958–2015
Labels Atco Records
Atlantic Records
Ichiban Records
Associated acts The Drifters
The Five Crowns

Benjamin Earl King[1] (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".[2]

Early life[edit]

King was born, with the birth name of 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[edit]

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 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".[2] 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.[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[edit]

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 "Supernatural Thing" (1975).[4] 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]

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."[12]

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;[13] he was also nominated as a solo artist.[14]

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).[15]

King was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.[16]

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.[17]

Later life[edit]

King was active in his charitable foundation, the Stand By Me Foundation, which helps to provide education to deserving youths.[8][18] He was a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey, from the late 1960s.[19]

King performed "Stand By Me" during a televised tribute to late comedian George Carlin, as he was one of Carlin's favorite artists.[20]

On November 11, 2010, he performed "Stand By Me" on the Latin Grammys with Prince Royce.[21]

King toured the United Kingdom in 2013 and played concerts in the United States as late as 2014, despite reported health problems.[22]


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.[22][23] 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.[21] 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.[24] "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".[25]



Other albums[edit]

Singles with the Drifters (singing lead)[edit]

  • "There Goes My Baby" (1959) R&B: #1 US: #2[27]
  • "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[edit]

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
Spanish Harlem 10 9 15
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
Soul Meeting
(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
Spanish Harlem
(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


  1. ^ "King, Ben E.". Veromi. Retrieved March 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Strong, Martin C. (1998). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 531–532. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  3. ^ a b "'Stand By Me' singer Ben E. King dies at age 76". PIX11 News. May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Grimes, William (May 1, 2015). "Ben E. King, Soulful Singer, Dies at 76; 'Stand by Me' Was One of His Hits". New York Times. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  5. ^ Jones, Soul (June 1, 2011). "Soul Jones Words: Play It Again, Ben - Ben E. King Interview". Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  6. ^ Goldberg, Marv. "Marv Goldberg's R&B Notebooks: The Later Drifters". Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ Fontenot, Robert. "The Life and Times of Ben E. King". Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Ben E King: R&B legend dies at 76". BBC News. May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Experience The Music: One Hit Wonders and the Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Ben E. King, 'Stand By Me' Singer and Member of the Drifters, Dies at 76". Variety. May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  11. ^ Farber, Jim (May 1, 2015). "Ben E. King, soul legend who sang 'Stand By Me,' dead at 76". The New York Daily News. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Ben E. King". Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  13. ^ "The Drifters Biography". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Ben E. King, soul legend and singer of 'Stand By Me,' dead at 76". Associated Press. May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  15. ^ "The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs (Music From the HBO Original Series)". AllMusic. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  16. ^ "2009 Inductees". North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved September 10, 2012. 
  17. ^ "Stand By Me Named Towering Song, Ben E. King Towering Performance, Lance Freed Abe Olman Publisher". SongHall. March 27, 2012. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  18. ^ "The Ben E. King Stand By Me Foundation". August 11, 2011. Retrieved April 19, 2014. 
  19. ^ Beckerman, Jim. "Ben E. King can't stop the music", The Record (Bergen County), May 10, 2008. Accessed March 1, 2009.
  20. ^ Wloszczyna, Suan (November 11, 2008). "Comics toast Carlin at Mark Twain ceremony". USA Today. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  21. ^ a b Strang, Fay (May 1, 2015). "Ben E King dead: Stand By Me singer dies aged 76". Mirror. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Furness, Hannah (May 1, 2015). "Stand By Me singer Ben E King dies at 76". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  23. ^ "R&B legend Ben E King dies at 76". BBC. May 1, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2015. 
  24. ^ Bret, David (2014). Brit Girls of the Sixties: Kathy Kirby + Dusty Springfield + Cilla Black + Helen Shapiro + Marianne Faithfull + Sandie Shaw + Lulu. Lulu Press. 
  25. ^ Lewis, Dave (2012). From A Whisper to A Scream: The Complete Guide to the Music of Led Zeppelin. Music Sales Group. 
  26. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 302. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  27. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 173. 

External links[edit]