Ben E. King, best known for the sweet soulful anthem to fidelity, “Stand By Me,” died on Thursday at age 76, his publicist confirmed to the BBC. He is reported to have died of natural causes.
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson, King began his career with soul doo-wop group, The Drifters in the 1950s, where he cowrote their hit single, “There Goes My Baby” and sung on their hit song, “Save The Last Dance For Me.”
After a pay dispute, King decided to go solo and changed his moniker to the one we know today.
His first solo hit was “Spanish Harlem” in 1960 (covered flawlessly by Aretha Franklin in 1971,) followed by “Stand By Me,” which hit the Top 5 on U.S. charts in 1961.
“Stand By Me” has been covered by everyone from musical legend John Lennon to Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire to Imagine Dragons. It is a seemingly eternal song that resurfaces each generation, whether via the 1986 movie of the same name or being liberally sampled in Sean Kingston’s 2007 number one hit, “Beautiful Girls.”
“Stand by Me,” “Spanish Harlem” and “There Goes My Baby” were all honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as three of The Top 500 songs That Shaped Rock and Roll, as well as by the Grammy Foundation, reports the BBC.