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Ben E King Dies: R&B Legend Best Known for 'Stand By Me' Was 76

Image: Ben E King Dies: R&B Legend Best Known for 'Stand By Me' Was 76
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By    |   Friday, 01 May 2015 01:22 PM

Ben E. King, the R&B singer known for such hits as "Stand By Me" and "Spanish Harlem," has died, his talent agent confirmed to The Wall Street Journal. He was 76.

King's standard "Stand By Me" was released in 1960 shortly after he left The Drifters, in which he was an original member. Billboard.com said the song reached as high as No. 4 on Hot 100 chart in 1961.

The song has been covered by a wide variety of artists, including John Lennon, Mickey Gilley, David Ruffin, and Maurice White. It was also spawned a 1986 film by the same name.

The U.S. Library of Congress added the song to the National Recording Registry this year, pointing to "King's incandescent vocal that made it a classic." King was listed a songwriter with Elmo Glick, the pseudonym used for producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, according to the Library of Congress.

"The song's historical and aesthetic significance can't be understated, either," wrote Stephen Kornhaber of The Atlantic. "Its bass line, common among '50s doo-wop performances, became so associated with the song that the chord progression is sometimes referred to as the 'Stand By Me' changes. The lyrics work as a testament to friendship, or to romance, or to broader social solidarity; accordingly, it has sound tracked calls for political progress from America to Thailand."

King performed with The Five Crowns, which later became The Drifters, The Journal noted. He was the lead singer for the group on its most iconic hits like "This Magic Moment" and "Save the Last Dance for Me."

"In 1999, BMI declared that the single . . . originally intended for The Drifters but ultimately recorded by King when the group turned it down, was the fourth-most played song on American radio in the 20th century," wrote August Brown of the Los Angeles Times.

King, who was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in North Carolina, saw his music career take off after he moved to New York and became involved in the growing doo-wop music scene.

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Ben E. King, the R&B singer known for such hits as "Stand By Me" and "Spanish Harlem," has died, his talent agent confirmed to The Wall Street Journal. He was 76.
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Friday, 01 May 2015 01:22 PM
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