The Telegraph has reported that legendary R&B and soul singer Ben E. King died on Thursday from natural causes. Born in Henderson, NC but raised in Harlem, the baritone is synonymous with his lush 1961 top five hit, “Stand By Me,” which was re-issued and peaked in the top ten again in 1986.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer born Benjamin Earl Nelson rose to fame as the lead singer of the second incarnation of The Drifters. King’s two-year stint with the doo wop group in the late 1950s resulted in memorable staples like “This Magic Moment,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Dance With Me” and “Save the Last Dance For Me.”
The charismatic vocalist embarked on a solo career after a dispute with The Drifters’ management over royalties and the terms of his contract. King signed with Atlantic Records subsidiary, Atco, and continued to land on the charts with “Spanish Harlem,” “Don’t Play That Song,” “I (Who Have Nothing),” “How Can I Forget” and “Supernatural Thing (Part 1).”
King’s recording career received several high honors from various music industry organizations. “Stand By Me,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “Spanish Harlem” were each honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. “Stand By Me” was acknowledged by the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012 and was listed as one of the “Songs of the Century” by the Recording Industry Association of America
Also an active humanitarian, King’s nonprofit organization, Stand By Me Foundation, helped fund young people pursuing an education. The entertainer was recognized as a founding champion of the Global Village Champions Foundation, working towards eradicating famine.
King continued to record new material and tour the globe entertaining audiences on the oldies-but-goodies revue circuit. He resided in Teaneck, NJ with his wife of 52 years, Betty. He was 76 years old.
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This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, pop cultural critic and music editor for the BurtonWire. He is also contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.