Looking Back at Legendary Soulful Man Ben E. King On His Birthday

“Save The Last Dance For Me” and “Stand By Me” are among the many songs he popularized

Looking Back at Legendary Soulful Man Ben E. King On His Birthday

One of Soul’s most recognizable voices, Ben E. King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson on September 28th, 1938 in Henderson, North Carolina. King began singing in church choirs, and in high school formed the Four B’s, a doo-wop group that occasionally performed at the Apollo. In 1958 he joined the famous vocal group The Drifters after the original members were replaced by King’s band at the time. the Five Crowns. King co-wrote and sang lead on the first Atlantic hit by the new version of the Drifters, “There Goes My Baby”. He also sang lead vocals on several other Drifters hits including three of their major ones: “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “This Magic Moment”, and “I Count the Tears”. In 1960 Ben E.King leaves The Drifters and starts his own solo career, His first solo hit is the ballad “Spanish Harlem” in 1961, one of his most memorable songs, “Stand by Me”, that he wrote with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, became his signature song. Released in 1961, “Stand By Me” was a worldwide hit by Ben E. King during the early 1960’s, the resurgence of the song in 1986 when it was used as title song for the movie “Stand By Me” gave Ben E.King a new boost and recognition to younger generations, 25 years after it’s original release the song topped again the charts between 1986 and 1987 in several countries around the world, making it not only a 1960’s, but also a 1980’s classic. The song was voted as one of the Songs of the Century by by the Recording Industry Association of America. “Stand by Me”, “There Goes My Baby”, “Spanish Harlem”, and “Save the Last Dance for Me” were all named in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll,  and each of those records has earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Ben E. King had a successful career spawning for over 50 years, he toured until 2014 and only stopped due to his health problems. The influence he had and still has in music can be best demonstrated by the variety of artists from several diverse genres that had covered his songs: Otis Redding, John Lennon, Mickey Gilley, Florence + The Machine, Tracy Chapman, Prince Royce,Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Aretha Franklin and Led Zeppelin among many others. As a Drifter and as a solo artist, King had achieved five number one hits: “There Goes My Baby”, “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “Stand By Me”, “Supernatural Thing”, and the 1986 re-issue of “Stand By Me”. He also earned 12 Top 10 hits and 26 Top 40 hits from 1959 to 1986. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Drifter and was also nominated as a solo artist.

Watch the 1986 music video for Ben E. King’s classic “Stand By Me” featuring King, actors River Phoenix and Will Wheaton and footage from the 1986 movie

Listen to some of Ben E.King best songs compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify

Watch more 1960’s related videos


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