A Rockapaedia Obituary
Ben E King
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Ben E King died aged seventy-six on 30th April 2015 at the Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, U.S.A.. His agent said he had suffered from "coronary problems" at the time of his death. Ben E. King was survived by his wife Betty, three children and six grandchildren.
Ben E King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson on 28thSeptember 1938, in Henderson, North Carolina, U.S.A and moved to Harlem, New York, at the age of nine. Ben E King began singing in church choirs, and in high school formed the Four B’s, a doo-wop group that occasionally performed at the Apollo.
In 1958, Ben E 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.
Ben E King had a string of Rythm & Blues 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" in 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". Ben E King recorded only thirteen songs with the Drifters—two backing other lead singers and eleven lead vocal performances. The last of the Ben E King-led Drifters singles to be released was "Sometimes I Wonder", which was recorded in May 1960, but not issued until June 1962.
Due to contract disputes with Treadwell in which Ben E King and his manager, L. Patterson, demanded greater compensation, Ben E King rarely performed with the Drifters on tour or on television. On television, fellow Drifters member Charlie Thomas usually lip-synched the songs that Ben E King had recorded with the Drifters.
In May 1960, Ben E King left the Drifters in preparation for a solo career. Remaining with Atlantic Records on its Atco imprint, Ben E King scored his first solo hit with the ballad "Spanish Harlem".
His next single, "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. Ben E King cited singers Brook Benton, Roy Hamilton and Sam Cooke as influences for his vocals of the song. "Stand by Me", "There Goes My Baby", "Spanish Harlem", and "Save the Last Dance for Me" were all named in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll; and each of those records has earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award. Ben E King's other well-known songs include "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)", "Amor", "Seven Letters", "How Can I Forget", "On the Horizon", "Young Boy Blues", "First Taste of Love", "Here Comes the Night", "Ecstasy", and "That's When It Hurts".
Ben E King's records continued to place well on the U.S.A. Billboard Hot 100 chart until 1965. British pop bands began to dominate the pop music scene, but Ben E King still continued to make Rythm&Blues hits, including "What is Soul?", "Tears, Tears, Tears", and "Supernatural Thing".
Ben E King returned to the Drifters in late 1982 in England, and sang with them until the group's break-up and reorganization in 1986.
A 1986 re-issue of "Stand by Me" followed the song's use as the theme song to the movie Stand By Me and re-entered the Billboard Top Ten after a 25-year absence. This reissue also reached Number one in the United Kingdom and Ireland for three weeks in February 1987.
In 1990, Ben E King and Bo Diddley, along with Doug Lazy, recorded a revamped hip hop version of the Monotones' 1958 hit song "Book of Love" for the soundtrack of the movie Book of Love. He also recorded a children's album, I Have Songs In My Pocket, written and produced by children's music artist Bobby Susser in 1998, which won the Early Childhood News Directors' Choice Award and Dr. Toy's/the Institute for Childhood Resources Award.
As a Drifter and as a solo artist, Ben E King had achieved five number one hits: "There Goes My Baby", "Save the Last Dance for Me", "Stand By Me", "Supernatural Thing", and the 1986 re-issue of "Stand By Me". He also earned 12 Top 10 hits and 26 Top 40 hits from 1959 to 1986. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Drifter; he was also nominated as a solo artist.
Ben E King was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
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