Ben E King, R&B icon, dead at 76

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R&B singer Ben E King has died at the age of 76.

He’s best known for 1961 solo hit Stand By Me, which returned to popularity after use in a movie in 1986. Before that he’d enjoyed success as a member of the Drifters.

Originally working under his real name Benjamin Earl Nelson, he took on the King title after leaving the band in 1959 as a result of a pay dispute. It’s been reported the members were being paid $100 per week despite global success with a run of chart-topping singles.

His debut solo hit was Spanish Harlem, soon followed with Stand By Me, co-written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It’s the fourth most-played track of the 20th century in the US and it’s charted nine times including his own two stints.

In 2013 King said: “The song’s success lay in the way Leiber and Stoller took chances – and we had a brilliant arranger. In my vocal you can hear something of my earlier times, when I’d sing in subway halls for the echo and perform doo-wop on street corners.”

He died at Hackensack University Medical Centre, New York, after suffering cardiac problems.