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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

legoboy00101
He was the best singer I know and I am 11 years old
I have been singing this song to my kiddo ever since I was pregnant. This is the preferred bedtime lullaby to this day.

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 the next 2 days. Now you've started reading this so don't stop. This is so scary put this on 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 cud it actually works
Ban e king song
123 hit it love
One of best
ducksp16
Awesome song
Awesome!
Love this song
His legacy will continue for a long time
I love this song it make's me think of my dad oh how I miss him
Every great Black Man, needs a woman to stand by him. Yes, we do.
You stand by me!
15 brithday song
You go Ben E. King! :D
apc832
.
I love this, life could be a dream, stand by me, all of this oldies. NICE!!!
Love this music I am trying to dance in my wheelchair! Don't laugh I really need the exercise! Hope to be out of this. By thanksgiving ! Woo boo!
I love his music!!!!!!! Noé Reyes Pinto
28th Anniversary of stand by me 1986 is today!!!! Keep the river flowing ✌️
Like his song stand by me
never getting tired of Ben E. King Legend
A true legend
Stand by me....
I can never get tired of listening to this
This song made me cry when I listened to it for the first time nd now I cry everytime I hear it.....
Chris Chambers����
the first king i grew up with ben.
Arianna this song made me cry
I love his music
This song is amazing stand by me day and night ,rain or shine this song is in my top favorites.
ceffers
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ceffers
Thank you for my likes
ceffers
Stand by me is the best
isnt it amazing how music can take you from a bad mood to a good one?
Very meaningful song.
MUSIC ! Don't you just love how it sends you to a #magicmoment
So cute I love him
Stand by Me
LOVE THE MOVIE<3!!!!!
My favorite is Stand by me I just love it I also have the movie they are both treat! :)
Stand by me is very peaceful it reminds u of new Hampshire and moutins
joselvs702
He's the best
joselvs702
Stand by me��
River and Corey were the cutest
stand by me and pull my fingure
Stand by me L♥VE.. :)☆
I f**king love this song no homo
Why did it play him on the ACDC radio?
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