Skip to main content

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

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.

Not only is one-time online news editor Martin an established rock journalist and drummer, but he’s also penned several books on music history. He’s appeared on TV and when not delving intro all things music, can be found travelling along the UK’s vast canal network.