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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, North Carolina, 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, Pt. 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 albums every few years. 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. The year 2006 saw the release of a smooth R&B album, I've Been Around, on True Life Records. A 2010 date titled Heart & Soul featured King with a small jazz group, stretching out on vocal standards. He continued to tour and make special performances, and was also active in the Stand by Me Foundation, his charity dedicated to children's education. Ben E. King died on April 30, 2015, after a brief illness. ~ Steve Huey
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Sings For Soulful Lovers/Seven Letters

1. My Heart Cries For You

2. He Will Break Your Heart

3. Dream Lover

4. Will You Love Me Tomorrow

5. My Foolish Heart

6. Fever

7. Moon River

8. What A Difference A Day Made

9. Because Of You

10. At Last

11. On The Street Where You Live

12. It's All In The Game

13. Seven Letters

14. River Of Tears

15. I'm Standing By

16. Jamaica

17. Down Home

19. It's All Over

20. Let The Water Run Down

21. This Is My Dream

22. It's No Good For Me

23. In The Middle Of The Night

24. Don't Drive Me Away

x

Track List: Spanish Harlem / Don't Play That Song

1. Amor

2. Sway

3. Come Closer To Me

4. Perfidia

6. Sweet And Gentle

7. Quizas, Quizas, Quizas (Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps)

8. Frenesi

9. Souvenir Of Mexico

10. Besame Mucho

11. Love Me, Love Me

12. Spanish Harlem

13. Don't Play That Song

14. Ecstasy

15. On The Horizon

16. Show Me The Way

17. Here Comes The Night

18. First Taste Of Love

19. Stand By Me

20. Yes

21. Young Boy Blues

22. The Hermit Of Misty Mountain

23. I Promise Love

24. Brace Yourself

x

Track List: The Very Best Of Ben E. King

1. There Goes My Baby

2. Dance With Me

3. This Magic Moment

4. Save The Last Dance For Me

5. I Count The Tears

6. Spanish Harlem

7. Stand By Me

8. On The Horizon

9. Amor

10. Young Boy Blues

11. Here Comes The Night

12. Don't Play That Song (You Lied)

13. How Can I Forget

14. I (Who Have Nothing)

15. Supernatural Thing - Part I

16. Do It In The Name Of Love

x

Track List: What Is Soul?

1. The Record (Baby I Love You) (LP Version)

2. She's Gone Again (LP Version)

3. There's No Place To Hide

4. Cry No More (LP Version)

5. Goodnight My Love, Pleasant Dreams

6. Katherine

7. I Can't Break The News To Myself

8. I Swear By Stars Above

9. Get In A Hurry

10. They Don't Give Medals To Yesterday's Heroes

11. Teeny Wheeny Little Bit

12. What Is Soul?

x

Track List: White Moon

1. Stand By Me

2. Spanish Harlem

3. Save The Last Dance For Me

4. Don't Play That Song

5. I Who Have Nothing

6. Amor

7. This Magic Moment

8. Young Boy Blues

9. Goodnight My Love

10. How Can I Forget

11. It's All Over

12. I Count The Tears

14. Into The Mystic

15. Love Is

16. Only You Know And I Know

17. Poison In My Mind

19. Supernatural Thing

22. Travelin' Woman

25. I Guess It's Goodbye

Comments

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Stand by me and I'm is his brother
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Jnjjjgjhh mm jbbhhhhhhj by hhhhgjhjj kg jjnhjhjgj
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Stand by me
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RIP River Jude Phoenix
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justinjenny4 9 5
❤❤❤❤❤
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❤❤❤❤❤
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I❤️ stand by me
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This magic moment
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I like stand by me
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Big tune allday stand by me!!!
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I will always miss you and love your music
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Its ok
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justinjenny4 9 5
❤❤❤❤❤
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Rest in peace mom luv u...N miss u
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tonydale48
❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
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Linda melodia...su p e r romantica.��
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LEFT THIS WORLD TOO EARLY!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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Deeply missed ������
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Ben E King's version of Will You Love Me Tomorrow is first class.
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❤❤❤❤❤
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Love the song he die de chat they
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Always a favorite from the marvelous Ben E. King. ❤️
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rip ben = i wonder what you would think today = especially the racist bullshit - manufactured by the media
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J bias truth one of my faves
eyes and my daugther
Always sings a long to this song and Mr king a!ways in high regard rip mucho respecto
Long
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It always hurts wen we lose one. But wen lose one of the greats it seems to become personal and hurt that much more! R.I.P. Mr. King.. thanks for blessing us with ur presence and for all the great music which will live on forever.
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Great music! I am 80 and love this music!
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I love Ben e king thank you
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Unsung next season...it' s supernatural . . .
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I'm 11years old and Ben E. King ,Sam Cooke are an inspiration
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Same
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I love a lot of oldies and classics but I am in love with stand by me
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Obsessed with Stand by Me
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Love your song stand by me
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Jo I no b mm nm m huh yů
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ocamila
Follow me if you like Ben E. King
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Why r u reading this?
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rstoker19
H
Im
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Hi
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#OG
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dropper14
When I was a kid I always thought this was a Jay and The Americans hit. Oh well, with age comes knowledge and hopefully some wisdom.
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Look for Ben e. King at unsung in 2016...
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One of the best singers in that area
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Stand by meeeeeee no I won't cry, so darling, stand by me
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mission12
STAND BY MEEEEEEEEE BIGGEST FAN OF THE MOVIE AND THE SONG AND THE BOOK WOOP YAS HONEY THANK U
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Your songs are so inspirationa l , thank you! :)
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I really, really love this song! Thank you for playing it! 10/10
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Sandlot movie
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Stand by myside for life
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He I S the bomb! They don't make them this anymore.
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I definitely miss him. Loved him ��
Show more

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