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Ben E. King

From the groundbreaking orchestrated productions of the Drifters to his own solo hits, Ben E. King was the definition of R&B elegance. King's plaintive baritone had all the passion of gospel, but the settings in which it was displayed were tailored more for his honey smooth phrasing and crisp enunciation, proving for perhaps the first time that R&B could be sophisticated and accessible to straight pop audiences. King's approach influenced countless smooth soul singers in his wake and his records were key forerunners of the Motown sound.

King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, NC, in 1938, and sang with his church choir before the family moved to Harlem in 1947. In junior high, he began performing with a street corner doo wop group called the Four B's, which won second place in an Apollo Theater talent contest. While still in high school, he was offered a chance to join the Moonglows, but was simply too young and inexperienced to stick. He subsequently worked at his father's restaurant as a singing waiter, which led to an invitation to become the baritone singer in a doo wop outfit called the Five Crowns in 1958. The Five Crowns performed several gigs at the Apollo Theater along with the Drifters, whose career had begun to flounder in the years since original lead singer Clyde McPhatter departed. Drifters manager George Treadwell, dissatisfied with the group members' unreliability and lack of success, fired them all in the summer of 1958 and hired the Five Crowns to assume the name of the Drifters (which he owned).

The new Drifters toured for about a year, playing to often hostile audiences who knew they were a completely different group. In early 1959, they went into the studio with producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to cut their first records. A song Nelson (still performing under his given name) co-wrote called "There Goes My Baby" became his first lead vocal and the lush backing arrangement made highly unorthodox (in fact, virtually unheard-of) use of a string section. "There Goes My Baby" became a massive hit, laying the groundwork for virtually every smooth/uptown soul production that followed. Over the next two years, Nelson sang lead on several other Drifters classics, including "Dance With Me," "This Magic Moment," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "I Count the Tears."

In 1960, Nelson approached Treadwell about a salary increase and a fairer share of the group's royalties. Treadwell rebuffed him and Nelson quit the group, at this point assuming the more memorable stage name Ben E. King in preparation for a solo career. Remaining on Atlantic, King scored his first solo hit with the stylish, Latin-tinged ballad "Spanish Harlem," a Jerry Leiber/Phil Spector composition that hit the Top Ten in early 1961. The follow-up, "Stand By Me," a heartfelt ode to friendship and devotion co-written by King, became his signature song and an enduring R&B classic; it was also his biggest hit, topping the R&B charts and reaching the pop Top Five. King scored a few more chart singles through 1963, including velvety smooth pop-soul productions like "Amor," "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)," and the Italian tune "I (Who Have Nothing)." In the post-British Invasion years, King had a rough go of it on the pop charts but continued to score R&B hits. 1967's Southern-fried "What Is Soul?" was one of his last singles for Atco; seeking to revive his commercial fortunes, King departed in 1969.

A 1970 album on Maxwell, Rough Edges, failed to generate much attention, and King was forced to make a living touring the oldies circuit. In 1975, Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun caught King's act in a Miami lounge and invited him to re-sign with the label. King scored an unlikely comeback smash with the disco track "Supernatural Thing, Part I," which returned him to the top of the R&B charts in 1975 and also reached the pop Top Five. While he was unable to duplicate that single's success, King recorded several more albums for Atlantic up through 1981, and also collaborated with the Average White Band in 1977 on the album Benny & Us. After leaving Atlantic a second time, King toured in a version of the Drifters beginning in 1982. In 1986, "Stand By Me" was prominently featured in the Rob Reiner film of the same name; re-released as a single, it climbed into the Top Ten all over again. In its wake, King returned to solo recording, issuing a new album every few years all the way up through the '90s. He also guested on recordings by Heaven 17 and Mark Knopfler, among others. King's 1999 album Shades of Blue (on Half Note Records) found him branching out into jazz territory, performing with a big band and guests like Milt Jackson and David "Fathead" Newman. 2006 saw the release of a brand new album, I've Been Around, on True Life Records. ~ Steve Huey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

During tough times you just need people to Stand by you !! don't don't judge don't stone just Stand!!!!!!! !
Ben E. King could sing a Greyhound bus schedule & make me fall @ his feet!!!
What a VOICE!!!!! =-O
My mailman, Dave the Great, could sing " Stand By Me" & make me fall @ his feet!!!
What a SONG!!!!! =-O
Thank u, Sir Ben E. King, U R LOVED 4EVER!!!!! :-D =-O :-D!!!!!
He gave his songs heart and soul that could make you cry. The only competition would be Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye.
THIS MY STUFF IT MAKES ME WANNA CRY ALL TIME (TEAR) I LOVE THIS SONG WITH ALL HEART LIKE SOOOOO FOR REAL!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! EVERYTIME I HEARIT I GET SOOOOOOOOOOO O O O EXCITED AND HAPPY
Classic of all time...
If you follow me I will follow you.
Aww :) My Daddy Still Sings this to Me.. ^-^ <3 Wuv You Daddy..
Daddy could sing and at house parties, he would sing this song and we would all join in! This man's voice was incredible! Ben E. King is a legend!
Ben E. KIIIIIIIIIII I I I I I I I I N G ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Haaave MERCY!!!!!!! ! !
Does anyone know how to turn off pandora to turn on netflix without turnin off my I pad?
im 16 and love older music
cool
No problem
This Magic Moment while your lips are close to mine..... Classic line
This song really touches my heart.
I love this music ever since I was a little kid Sittin on my grandpa's lap I'm 12 I love old music
And I'm 8 love the 80s /90s
The good old classics go Goonies gremlins and of course stand by me and brekfest club ahhh good old 80s and 90s:-)
duartesasha
i love this song, but it makes me sad. but i love the movie! XD
STAND BY ME
1 kiss ur left hand
2 say your crushes name
3 close your hand
4 pick a school day
5 say your name
6 post this on 15 more songs and on the the day you picked you will be asked put by your crush
One of my favorites. <3
rickwm1955
Hank Williams Jr
This Is Real Music. Not Like The Pop That Is Out Today. And They Cross Over Into Everything. Can't Take it. T.S.
Don't read this because it acually works. You will be kissed on the nearest friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post it this you will die in two days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and you lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it work
❤️ dis song
Stand by me river and Corey are the cutest
Love his song stand by me
Hell yes!!!
Serious love song
Love it seriously I'm old school and I'm ten lol follow for a follow promise ��
Nine cents Vern , I haven't found my pennies yet . I brought a comb you wanna love good on tv don't you.
Stand By Me - definitely in the top 10 of greatest songs of all time (IMO)! Could listen to it all day, just beautiful.
@The people who do this: Don't read this because it actually works, pausing for a deep breath STFU AND GTFO.
This song is so beautiful it makes me wanna cry and I'm only 12 and I play music viola
This song is so amazing I can't get Enoch of it
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters
When the night
Follow me for a follow
Best kinda music is oldies
I was born in 2000 but still rocking out to these oldies. Pshhhh, challe.
I was born in the 90's and I'm rocking out to this n ain't a shame
I enjoy listening to odies
jojonanita
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on at least 5 songs in the next 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lovers name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works
What a great song
lola_u
Omg I love Ben king reminds me of a time when music was awesome with Sam Cooke and before that Mozart who is plain awesome . Stop the rap and listen to them
Love love love me some Ben E. King!
jacbill63was d c
Perhaps one of the best of the R&B songs made during The Civil Rights Movement! Can you imagine yourself being a Freedom Rider heading down South of the Mason/Dixon Line? You get the picture.
j.e.cook4
Don't read this because it actually works. You will be kissed on the nearest possible Friday by the love of your life. Tomorrow will be best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 days. Now you've started reading this don't stop. This is so scary. Post this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes. When done press f6 and your lover's name will come up on the screen. This is so scary because it actually works. F6
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