R&B and soul singer Ben E. King, best known for the classic song “Stand By Me,” has died at the age of 76. The singer died on Thursday, his publicist Phil Brown told BBC News.
King started his career in the late 1950s with The Drifters, singing hits including “There Goes My Baby” and “Save The Last Dance For Me.” After going solo, he hit the U.S. top five with “Stand By Me” in 1961. It returned to the charts in the 1980s, including a three-week spell at number one in the U.K. following its use in the film of the same name directed by Rob Reiner.
King’s other hits included “Spanish Harlem,” “Amor,” “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” and “Supernatural Thing – Part I.”
Fellow musician Gary U.S. Bonds wrote on Facebook that King was “one of the sweetest, gentlest and gifted souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend for more than 50 years”.
He wrote: “I can tell you that Ben E. will be missed more than words can say. Our sincere condolences go out to Betty and the entire family.
“Thank you Ben E. for your friendship and the wonderful legacy you leave behind.”
Actor Jerry O’Connell, who played Vern in the film “Stand By Me” alongside River Phoenix and Corey Feldman, tweeted: “You know you are good when John Lennon covers your song. Ben E. King was a wonderful and immensely talented man.”
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson, he initially joined a doo-wop group called The Five Crowns, who became The Drifters after that group’s manager fired the band’s previous members. He co-wrote and sang on the band’s single “There Goes My Baby,” which reached number two in the U.S. in 1959.
His first solo hit was “Spanish Harlem” in 1961, which was followed by “Stand By Me.”