R&B and soul immortal Ben E. King died April 30 at age 76, leaving a lasting imprint on popular music with his inimitable, signature style, epitomized by his greatest hit, “Stand By Me.”
Previously, King established a career-launching presence in the industry with “Spanish Harlem,” eventually covered twice by iconic jazz influence figure Laura Nyro.
King was also a featured vocalist for The Drifters, following original front man Clyde McPhatter, singing lead on the group’s now legendary ballads “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment.”
He returned to a solo career with back-to-back charters “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” and “I (Who Have Nothing).” King co-wrote, among other songs in his and The Drifters’ repertoire, “Stand By Me” and “Spanish Harlem.” “Stand by Me” was re-issued after the song was used as the theme song for the film version of the Stephen King’s novel of the same title. It re-entered the Billboard Top Ten a quarter-century after its release.
In 1990, Ben E. King and Bo Diddley, along with Doug Lazy, recorded a revamped version of the Monotones’ doo-wop hit “Book of Love” for the soundtrack of the movie of the same title. He recorded a children’s album, I Have Songs In My Pocket, written and produced Bobby Susser in 1998. It won the Early Childhood News’ Directors’ Choice Award and Dr. Toy’s/The Institute For Childhood Resources Award.
Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records and shepherd of careers for the likes of Solomon Burke, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Percy Sledge, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett said, “King is one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll and rhythm and blues.” King was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a Drifter in 1988.
King performed until 2013, doing a tour of the UK. He was active in his charitable institution, the Stand By Me Foundation, with the website’s stated mission to, “assist various civic organizations…to improve the quality of life [of people and] assist young people who have accepted responsibility for their emotional, social and educational growth and development. The major thrust [assists] those organizations that provide services in the areas of poverty, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect, teen pregnancy and domestic violence.”
According to the Aljazeera.com, King is survived by his wife, Betty; three children and six grandchildren.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.