Ben E. King, the legendary blues singer responsible for the 1961 hit "Stand By Me," died yesterday of undisclosed causes at a New Jersey hospital. He was 76 years old.
King, who lived in New Jersey at the time of his death, was born in North Carolina but grew up in Harlem, joining doowop group the Five Crowns, and then the Drifters, in the 1950s. While a member of the group, he co-wrote the track "There Goes My Baby," and lent his vocals to a number of hits, including "This Magic Moment" and "Save the Last Dance for Me."
King left the Drifters in the early 1960s, and had success with his initial solo career. "Stand By Me," which he co-wrote with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, reached No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard lists, and was covered by the likes of John Lennon. It was also featured on 1986 film Stand By Me's soundtrack. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the track 122nd on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Long before "Stand By Me" was rereleased, though, King's career slowed down significantly, though he still managed to eke out a few tracks that hit the Billboard lists before 1975. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Drifters in 1988.
King died at Hackensack University Medical Center, and his attorney told the Times he had suffered a brief illness. He is survived by his mother, wife, three children, four sisters, three brothers, and six grandchildren.