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Stand By Me by Ben E. King

Album: Don't Play That SongReleased: 1960Charted:
4
1
  • Ben E. King recorded this shortly after leaving The Drifters in 1960. It gave him a solid reputation as a solo artist.

    "Stand By Me" was the name of a Gospel hymn written by the Philadelphia minister Charles Albert Tindley in 1905. His hymn became popular in churches throughout the American south and was recorded by various Gospel acts in the 1950s. The most popular adaptation was by The Staples Singers, who recorded it in 1955. It was this version that Ben E. King heard; he pushed The Drifters to record it, but the group's manager rejected it.

    After leaving The Drifters, King auditioned for the legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, singing a few popular songs before doing what he had of "Stand By Me," which was just a few lines of lyrics with some humming to fill in the words. He agreed to collaborate on the song with Leiber and Stoller, who gave it a more contemporary sound and polished it into a hit. The bassline at the beginning was Stoller's idea.

    The song was credited as being written by Leiber, Stoller and King. Charles Albert Tindley, who composed the original hymn, was left off the composer credits as his work had been sufficiently transformed. This wasn't the first time Tindley was omitted from the credits of a song he originated: he also wrote a song called "I'll Overcome Someday," which eventually became "We Shall Overcome."
  • In an interview with the TV station WGBH, Jerry Leiber explained: "Ben E. is not a songwriter, he's a singer, he might have written two songs in his whole career. I would guess that this comes out of church. The whole 'stand by me' and the way the release takes out, it sounds like a Gospel type song."
  • This was used in the 1986 movie of the same name starring River Phoenix. The film was based on a short novel by Stephen King called The Body, but that title was a little to gruesome for a movie hoping to appeal to a wide audience. Rob Reiner, who directed the film, got the idea to use "Stand By Me" as the title and incorporate it into the movie when he heard the song one day at his house. This played up the friendship of the young boys in the film and downplayed the role of the dead body they find, which was a good move at the box office. The movie was a hit and propelled the song back to the charts, introducing the track to a new generation.
  • When this was first released in 1960, it charted US #4 and UK #27. When it was re-released to coincide with the movie, it hit US #9 and UK #1. It found a new audience who had never heard it before and proved to be a timeless classic.
  • In England, this was used in commercials for Levi's jeans in 1987 before the movie was released there. The exposure helped lift the song to #1 UK. "When A Man Loves A Woman" by Percy Sledge, used in the same group of Levi's ads, went to #2 at the same time.
  • Dionne Warwick sang backup on this song as part of a trio known as The Gospelaires. Soon after, songwriter Burt Bacharach helped Warwick launch a successful solo career. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • A cover by John Lennon hit #20 in the US in 1975.
  • This was not released on an album until it had been out as a single for two years.
  • Cassius Clay (who would later change his name to Muhammad Ali) recorded this in 1963 on an album called I Am The Greatest!. In 1964, when he beat Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight boxing champ, Clay's version of "Stand By Me" was released as a single, with his spoken-boast song called "I Am The Greatest" as the flip side. The single made the Billboard charts, bubbling under at #102 on the Hot 100.
  • During an interview with Spinner UK, King was asked if he had any favorite cover versions of this song. He replied: "David Ruffin from the Temptations did a great version of it. And, of course, the one that held up in my head the most was John Lennon's version. He took it and made it as if it should have been his song as opposed to mine. Now there's a [Dominican] singer named Prince [Royce] - he has a version out there that I think is brilliant. And then there's Sean Kingston, with 'Beautiful Girls' [chuckles] - that's another one that did well. So many of them have done well. As a songwriter, it pleases me a lot - you don't always have a chance to write a song that people can relate to."
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Comments: 33

John Lennon did it better than king . because he is greatestMecid - Baku, Azerbaijan
Interesting cover of that classic, one of the best songs ever, by DION DIMUCCI - the Great One - on his album DION - NEW MASTERS (2003).Pierre - Chelsea, Quebec, Canada
The song was also featured in the 1980s movie "Urban Cowboy" and was performed by Mickey Gilley, it peaked at #22. Earl Grant released an instrumental version in 1965 and it peaked at #75. When Ben E. King lip synked the song on American Bandstand in 1960, the opening bass line was shown being played on a six string guitar not a bass guitar...Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
A great song, delight everybody in their hearts with love and friendships.Au-yeung - Hong Kong, Hong Kong
John Lennon's version kills every other version of this song ever created. Hands down.Brad - Lexington, Ky
this is a song where me and my friends are about to watch the movie and we just start singing it. we laugh, joking ben king is rolling over in his grave, but it connects usAdam - South Pasadena, Israel
This song has been a part of my life since I graduated in 1961. You can read my memoir and comments about this simple but great piece of music at www.JustOneOpinion.com. Did anyone here catch BEK's performance at the Mark Twain Prize for George Carlin? It was great. Video posted with article.John - Salem, Ca
Love those strings by Stan Applebaum..a work of genius!Steve Dotstar - Los Angeles, Ca
Such a lovely, timeless song. King was a master of using simple words and sudsy metaphors to paint brilliant pictures of a love that knows no bounds and will last forever, without coming off as cheesyCaitlin - Upper Township, Nj
Stand by me gives off a hidden message that not many people catch on too, and in my opinion, is the strongest message capable of being given off through a song.Randy - Tonawanda, Ny
The Cassius Clay (M.Ali) version was done as the B side of the single off his LP but it wasn't on the LP. It is on the CD version & it's on one of the Golden Throats CD's.Nunzio - Darwin, Australia
A+ song from an A+ movie. (dyk: in the movie only Chris dies in the novella 3 of them die. which 3?
read the novella, also in that book "Different Seasons" are 2 other novellas made into movies: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption and The Body.
Kevin - Memphis , Tn
This song is magnificient because it accurately paints a picture of the power of love and the nothingness of reality. If only we knew how, we could realise true love in our relationships and create a better world. I know how, seek me out, if you are searching.Raymond - Sydney , Australia
I'm as big a John Lennon fan as exists. He and Phil Spector did an excellent cover of this song on his Rock 'n' Roll album, but Ben E. King's version will never be improved upon!Guy - Woodinville, Wa
I think this song is wonderful, but it would be better if it was longer.Daniel - Sayreville, Nj
The Staples Singers sang at 'The Bands' farewell concert (The Last Waltz), the show was held in the Winterland Arena in Sanfrancisco in 1976
The performed with 'The Band' singing The Weight.
Patrick - Omagh, Ireland
The late great 'Marc Bolan' of T Rex recorded a worthy version of this classic song, I rate Bolan's rendition of 'Stand by Me' above that of John Lennon's, but Ben E. King's version stands the test of time and remains a timeless classic.Patrick - Omagh, Ireland
On a Zeppelin bootleg I have from their 1972 Japan Tour, they play this song as one of the encores. Very beautiful, and very tastefully done.Swansong200 - Calhoun, Ga
Lennon's version: great. King's version: best.Jon - Oakridge, Or
i love this song so much, i'm getting married next year and we are having our first dance together to this song!Kim - London, England
There is a rather rare cover of this song by U2 and Springsteen together. The version is live and it begins with Bono asking "Anybody else like to play my guitar?" and then saying "Bruce Springsteen like to play my guitar" to the roar of the crowd. Bono enthused by the response of the crowd asks "Is he a local boy or something?"
In itself the version is interesting because of the guitaring.
Philip - Calcutta, India
I was only 8 yrs. old when I first heard it. I loved it right away. Ever since then it has remained my number one love song of all times. I love so many different kinds of music, and so much in my life is in a constant flow, but I can still listen to that song as if I was hearing it for the first time. Now that's what I call a powerful song, right?
Plus, the way Ben sings it is just incredible. Few singers have ever toched my heart with their emotional performance as he has. He just really FEELS what he SINGS.
Jazzz - Frankfurt
I actually have to agree that Ben E. King sings it better than John LennonMarkus - Stockholm, Sweden
I think the lyrics are better than anything else in this song... No version of this song has just ever been able to really strike me melodically, so to speakMarkus - Stockholm, Sweden
this is my favourite song ever and no cover can match it. especially not john lennon. no offence, but it just isn't as good. you dont need to read into it much, there is no secret meaning. in fact it's really quite simple, no matter what happens, stand by me. love it.Gary - Manchester, England
The cover version by John Lennon is produced by Phil Spector; it's very good.Teresa - Mechelen, Belgium
That wasn't too rare in Soul music, Robert. People would take Gospel music and take out the references to God to make Soul.Fred - New York, Ny
this is my favorite love song EVER!Ben - Cheverly, Md
the novella/short story was called "The Body"Niall - Ireland, Ireland
I knew it had to be based on an old Gospel song; I've always said, if you take out the "Darling, darling"s, it's a prayer.Robert - Puyallup, Wa
Ugh. It wasn't a novel, it was a short story (see above). It isn't Steven King, it is Stephen.Brad - Center Line, Mi
I really love this song, it reminds me of my fantastic holiday last year.i could listen to it all night.Bree Roxanne - Bristol, England
I believe that the cover version by lennon was a much better version of the song. The song is also played in the movie "Stand by Me" based on the Steven King novel of the same title.Anonymous