Old School Americana & Nostalgia


On This Day: American Pop and Soul Singer Ben E. King Recorded ‘Stand By Me’

On This Day: American Pop and Soul Singer Ben E. King Recorded ‘Stand By Me’

A day like no other, – On October 27, 1960, American pop and soul singer Ben E King made history by recording his iconic track Stand By Me. 

Stand By Me was written by King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller. The single was notably inspired by the Gospel song Stand By Me Father recorded by the Soul Stirrers and Johnnie Taylor. Although King recorded the single on October 27, 1960, it was officially released six months later, on April 24, 1961. 

Ben E King’s Stand By Me has more than 400 recorded versions. It has been performed by various artists throughout the years. Among those who covered the song was Beatles frontman, John Lennon, as well as Tracy Chapman. Stand By Me was dubbed as the sixth highest-earning song of its era. In 2012, Stand By Me received its Towering Song Award. 

Along with Stand By Me, King was known for other hit songs such as Spanish Harlem, So Much Love, and Supernatural Thing. The musician performed his hit songs up until his death in 2015. 

Ben E King Once Said Out of All the Songs He Wrote or Co-Wrote ‘Stand By Me’ Was His Favorite 

While speaking to The Guardian, Ben E King stated Stand By Me had a special place in his heart. This was even decades after he wrote the hit music track. 

“Of all the songs I wrote and co-wrote in my career, this is my favorite,” King stated. He also admitted that Stand By Me was created at a strange time in his music career. “I’d just left the Drifters and had to plead with Ahmet Ertegün, the president of Atlantic Records, to find a place for me.”

Ben E King recalled Ertegün put him to work with songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for his solo projects. The musician knew this was quite a partnership due to his somewhat inexperienced songwriting at the time. “It was like a schooling for me – a kid from Harlem who knew nothing about anything.”

Speaking about how the song was conceived, King said the trio had some time left at the end of one session and he was asked if he had any songs in his head. “I’d originally intended Stand By Me for the Drifters. The song we eventually recorded wasn’t so different from what I’d come up with. Jerry may have changed the lyrics in places, but not by much.”

However, Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic wasn’t impressed with the song. Ben E King said that Wexler ended up hating the song. This was due to the songwriters going into overtime in the studio with an expensive orchestra. “ I wasn’t trying to make a hit with Stand By Me, though. I was just thrilled one of my songs was being recorded at a time when there were so many great songwriters around, people like Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King.”