Songs Everybody Should Know
“Stand By Me” by Ben E. King (1961)
Last week Jerry Leiber of the famous song-writing team Leiber and Stoller died of heart issues at age 78. It was almost a half century run for the versatile song-writer and producer. His start really came with L&S penning “Hound Dog” for Big Mamma Thornton (later covered by Elvis). Leiber & Stoller went on to pen many others for Elvis including “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Jailhouse Rock”. A string of popish hits for the Coasters included “Yakity Yak”, “Along Came Jones”, and “Charlie Brown” and “Searchin’” put them at the top of their game. They became in demand as producers and song-writers for many years including producing such acts as Steelers Wheel (Stuck in the Middle) and writing classics such as “On Broadway” for the Drifters and “Stand By Me” for Ben E. King.
Benjamin Edward King was one of the principal lead singers of the Drifters that L&S worked with in the late ‘50s and early ‘60’s. After the original lead singer of the Drifters was fired, King stepped in to record such classics as “There Goes My Baby”, “Save the Last Dance for Me”, and “This Magic Moment”.
After a salary and royalty discussion gone bad in early 1960, King went on his own. Charlie Thomas, who replaced King, would lip-synch King’s songs in live performances. Remaining with Atlantic records now as ‘Ben E. King’, he hit with “Spanish Harlem” in early 1961 and followed up with the irrepressible classic “Stand By Me” which he actually helped L&S write having known them from his Drifter’s days.
“Stand By Me” is one of the most covered songs of all time, having been recorded over 400 times by artists ranging from John Lennon to Elton John. It is based on the spiritual song “Lord Stand by Me”, which in turn has roots in Psalms 46 of the Bible. The song went to number 1 of the R&B charts and was top 10 in 1961 and again in 1987 when it was used as the theme song of the movie of the same name. The movie was based on a Stephen King short story called “The Body” and is not a bad ‘coming of age’ movie packed with great oldies.
Ahmet Ertegun1 said “King is one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll and rhythm and blues”. Ahmen Brotha...
1. Ahmet Ertegun was the Turkish immigrant founder and president of Atlantic Records known for its classic R&B and later rock acts.