Benjamin Earl King(1938 -2015) was an American soul and R&B singer and record producer.
King is best known as the singer and co-composer of “Stand by Me”—a U.S. Top 10 hit, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the United Kingdom in 1987.
King was one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group The Drifters, notably singing the lead vocals of one of their biggest global hit singles (and only U.S. #1 hit) “Save the Last Dance for Me”.
In 1958, King joined a doo-wop group called the Five Crowns.Later that year, the Drifters’ manager George Treadwell fired the members of the original Drifters, and replaced them with the members of the Five Crowns.
King had a string of R&B hits with the group on Atlantic Records. He co-wrote and sang lead on the first Atlantic hit by the new version of the Drifters, “There Goes My Baby” (1959).
He sang lead on a succession of hits by the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, including “Save the Last Dance for Me”, “This Magic Moment”, and “I Count the Tears”.
King recorded only thirteen songs with the Drifters—two backing other lead singers and eleven lead vocal performances—including a non-single called “Temptation” (later redone by Drifters vocalist Johnny Moore).
The last of the King-led Drifters singles to be released was “Sometimes I Wonder”, which was recorded May 19, 1960, but not issued until June 1962.
“Stand by Me”, written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, ultimately would be voted as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America.