Friday, May 01, 2015

R & B Soul Singer Ben E. King Has Died

Ben E. King, a soul singer and songwriter best known for his 1961 hit “Stand by Me” and who sang several other songs that became radio staples, including “Spanish Harlem” and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” died April 30 in Teaneck, N.J., where he lived. He was 76.

His publicist, Phil Brown, confirmed the death to news organizations, but other details were not immediately available.

Mr. King recorded his first hits in the late 1950s as a member of the Drifters, singing the lead vocal on “There Goes My Baby,” “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” that last of which hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.

After leaving the group in 1960 in a dispute over money, he changed his name from Benjamin Nelson to Ben E. King while establishing a solo career. He had a Top 10 hit with the Latin-flavored ballad “Spanish Harlem” (1961), followed later the same year by “Stand by Me,” which also reached the Top 10. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 122 among the 500 greatest songs of all time.

The song was largely written Mr. King, although other songwriters — including the celebrated tunesmiths Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller — received writing credits. “Stand by Me” became one of the most widely recorded songs of the 20th century and reached the pop charts no fewer than nine times by various artists.

 In 1986, Mr. King’s original version became a hit for a second time when it was featured in Rob Reiner’s coming-of-age film set in the early 1960s, also called “Stand by Me.”

The song opens with a quiet simplicity, as an acoustic bass plays the melody over light percussion accompaniment. Mr. King then comes in, singing the song’s wistful opening lines in his slightly raspy baritone voice:
When the night has come,
And the land is dark, and
The moon is the only light we’ll see.
No, I won’t be afraid, no, I won’t be afraid