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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: The Complete Atco/Atlantic Singles Vol. 1: 1960-1966

Disc 1

1. Brace Yourself

2. Show Me The Way

3. A Help-Each-Other Romance

4. How Often

5. Spanish Harlem

6. First Taste Of Love

7. Stand By Me

8. On The Horizon

9. Amor

10. Souvenir Of Mexico

11. Young Boy Blues

12. Here Comes The Night

13. Ecstasy

14. Yes

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

16. Hermit Of Misty Mountain

17. Too Bad

18. My Heart Cries For You

19. I'm Standing By

20. Walking In The Footsteps Of A Fool

21. Tell Daddy (Single Version)

22. Auf Weidersehn, My Dear

23. How Can I Forget

24. Gloria, Gloria

25. I (Who Have Nothing)

26. The Beginning Of Time

27. I Could Have Danced All Night

28. Gypsy

Disc 2

1. What Now My Love

2. Groovin'

3. That's When It Hurts

4. Around The Corner

5. What Can A Man Do

6. Si Senor

7. It's All Over

8. Let The Water Run Down

9. Seven Letters

10. River Of Tears

11. The Record (Baby I Love You)

12. The Way You Shake It

13. She's Gone Again

14. Not Now (I'll Tell You When)

15. Cry No More

16. (There's) No Place To Hide

17. Goodnight My Love

18. I Can't Break The News To Myself

19. So Much Love

20. Don't Drive Me Away

21. I Swear By Stars Above

22. Get In A Hurry

x

Track List: Stand By Me (2013 Version)

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

x

Track List: Stand By Me (Single)

1. Stand By Me

x

Track List: Stand By Me

1. Stand By Me

2. Spanish Harlem

3. Amor

4. Don't Play That Song

5. Seven Letters

6. I Had A Love

7. I (Who Have Nothing)

8. Do It In The Name Of Love

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: The Ultimate Collection

1. Stand By Me

2. Save The Last Dance For Me

3. I (Who Have Nothing)

4. That's When It Hurts

5. I Could Have Danced All Night

6. First Taste Of Love

7. Dream Lover

8. Moon River

9. Spanish Harlem

10. Amor

11. I Count The Tears (Single)

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

13. This Magic Moment

14. Young Boy Blues

15. It's All In The Game

16. Supernatural Thing, Pt. 1

17. On The Street Where You Live

18. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow

19. Show Me The Way

20. Here Comes The Night

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: Street Tough

1. Street Tough

2. Made For Each Other

3. Staying Power

4. Stay Awhile With Me

5. Why Is The Question

6. You Made The Difference To My Life

7. Souvenirs Of Love

8. Something To Be Loved

x

Track List: Music Trance

1. Music Trance

2. And This Is Love

3. Touched By Your Love

4. You've Only Got One Chance To Be Yourself

5. Hired Gun

6. Everyday

7. Work That Body

x

Track List: Let Me Live In Your Life

1. Tippin'

2. Wonder Woman

3. Let Me Live In Your Life

4. I See The Light

5. Fly Away To My Wonderland

6. Dark Storm On The Horizon

7. Family Jewels

8. Sweet Rhapsody

9. Spoiled

10. Fifty Years

x

Track List: I Had Love

1. I Had A Love

2. I Betcha Didn't Know That

3. Smooth Sailing

4. No Danger Ahead

5. Everybody Plays The Fool

6. Standing In The Wings Of Heartache

7. We Got Love

8. Tower Of Strength

9. You're Stepping On My Heart (Tearing My World Apart)

x

Track List: Supernatural Thing (US Release)

1. Supernatural Thing, Pt. 1

2. Supernatural Thing Pt. 2

3. You're Lovin' Ain't Good Enough

4. Drop My Heart Off

5. Extra - Extra

6. Do It In The Name Of Love

7. Happiness Is Where You Find It

8. Do You Wanna Do A Thing

9. Imagination

10. What Do You Want Me To Do

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: Seven Letters (US Release)

1. Seven Letters

2. River Of Tears

3. I'm Standing By

4. Jamaica

5. Down Home

6. Si Senor

7. It's All Over

8. Let The Water Run Down

9. This Is My Dream

10. It's No Good For Me

11. In The Middle Of The Night

12. Don't Drive Me Away

x

Track List: Young Boy Blues

1. Young Boy Blues

2. I (Who Have Nothing)

3. Ecstasy

4. Here Comes the Night

5. My Heart Cries For You

6. Yes

7. Gloria, Gloria

8. Brace Yourself

9. I'm Standing By

10. Show Me the Way

x

Track List: Don't Play That Song (Mono)

1. Don't Play That Song [You Lied]

2. Ecstasy

3. On The Horizon

4. Show Me The Way

5. Here Comes The Night

6. First Taste Of Love

7. Stand By Me

8. Yes

9. Young Boy Blues

10. The Hermit Of Misty Mountain

11. I Promise Love

12. Brace Yourself

x

Track List: Ben E. King Sings For Soulful Lovers

1. My Heart Cries For You

2. He Will Break Your Heart

3. Dream Lover

4. Will You Still 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

x

Track List: Spanish Harlem

1. Amor

2. Sway

3. Come Closer To Me

4. Perfidia

5. Granada

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

Comments

Report as inappropriate
ITS A GIVEN FOR BRIAN AND ME ,, ALL WE NEED UNLIKE MOST PEOPLE IS LOVE "" THAT'S ALL"" AS JOHNNY SINGS ! ITS JUST BRIAN I STAND BY !!!
"" THAT'S ALL "" ,,
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��
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Don't read this. This is supposed to be a secret. Shoot, you are reading this. Well now that you are reading this, if you ignore it you will have very bad luck. Say ninja 3 times, cat 2 times, shout go ninjas go, then post this on 10 other songs or artists. In a week or 2 you will meet a friend.
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I love this song. R.I.P Ben E. King.
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To me he is the only king of music
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justinjenny4 9 5
❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤
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Having good time with these old song
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King is the king of music
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Love this song! Love this station! My kind of music! Beautiful, every song has Meaning! Thank You
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cdokken7
No one else sings "This Magic Moment " like Ben E. King!!!! ❤️❤️
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cdokken7
I will always love❤️Stand By Me, the one and only "Ben E. King
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Love this beautiful lovely romantic song, ����
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Awesome song
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fiel225
So Darling Save The Last Dance For Me
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Final Fantasy Fifteen messed me up man ;^;
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like this song
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Are. You. Really. A. King. If. You. Are. That. Wood. Be. Awesome
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There she goes! So fine swaying in the summer breeze, and she's mine.
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I'm in love 13 years strong with the love of my life. All I need is her by my side. Old school!!! I wasn't born in those days but love all love music from those days. IM IN LOVE :)
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ARE. REALLY. A. KING
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Great fu**ing song here guys and women. :)
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Good job Ben E. King
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❤️❤️❤️❤️️ I got rid of pandora ads/skip limit on www.dankprom o . x y z ❤❤️❤️️❤️
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I got rid of pandora ads/skip limit on www.dankprom o . x y z
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karenleeemer y
When I first learned to smoke cigarettes with my brother. In middle school, and he is dead now. Nostalgia. Sorry.
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Ohhhh stand by me ohhhh stand by me!!!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
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alexandraabe l l a 1 7
❤❤❤❤❤❤
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loh church songs to.
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ramseb6
My most Favorite song ever!
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what a great singer
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that's my kind of music!
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Ben E. King did an amazing job with this song called 'stand by me'
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All the real blues guys are gone, within months of each other.. Ben E King, B.B., Solomon Burke, Percy Sledge. I'll miss them all!
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prietoso1
This is real music!!!!
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dragonlady60 8 8
OUTSTANDING MUSIC
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Ben e. King is a truly legend.unsun g now!!!...
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One of my favorite and one of the best
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Thanks...... .
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Does he make his own lyrics either way wonderful artist!!
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This song tears me up
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The greatest
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Hi
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Change IS gonna come
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We have to stand together.for a storm is coming
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If there's an Ur-Song from the 50s, it's THIS song right here.... Uplifting emotions for all time!
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Come by
david...radi o
sometime.
david...
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oh darling darling
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Great version of Stand by Me ♫♫
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BRIAN!! NEVER ASK ME !!! DON' T YOU FEEL ME !! AFTER ALL BEEN THROUGH NEED YOU ASK !! DID'NT I PROVE IT TO YOU ONCE AGAIN !!!
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mirandai6
Ah good ol Ben E. King! :)
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