Stand By Me

Album: Don't Play That Song (1961)
Charted: 1 4
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  • 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 Staple 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 wildly successful songwriting/production 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 "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, met the song's co-writter Mike Stoller at a party, and convinced him to play some of his classic songs on a piano while Reiner sang along. Months later, Reiner got the idea to use "Stand By Me" as the title and incorporate it into the movie when he heard the song 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. Now a hit with two generations, the song started showing up at weddings and other special occasions, becoming a timeless classic.
  • The movie Stand By Me is set in 1959 - a little before this song was released, but pretty close. When Rob Reiner asked to use the song, its composers Leiber and Stoller thought he would want to re-record it with a contemporary artist like Tina Turner, but Reiner wanted the original so it fit the era. It was surprising then when the song vaulted up the charts, since it was the exact same song released in 1961.
  • According to BMI, this was the fourth most-played track of the 20th Century on American radio and TV.
  • This song has made an astounding nine appearances on the US Hot 100, plus two more that "bubbled under." Here's the breakdown:

    1961, #4 - Ben E. King
    1964, #102 - Cassius Clay
    1965, #75 - Earl Grant
    1967, #12 - Spyder Turner
    1970, #61 - David & Jimmy Ruffin
    1975, #20 - John Lennon
    1980, #22 - Mickey Gilley
    1985, #50 - Maurice White
    1986, #9 - Ben E. King (re-release)
    1998, #82 - 4 The Cause
    2010, #109 - Prince Royce
  • Sean Kingston sampled this on his 2007 hit "Beautiful Girls." Other songs that have used pieces of "Stand By Me" include "A Little Bit of Soap" by De La Soul (1989), "My Darlin'" by Miley Cyrus feat. Future (2013), and "Marvin Gaye" by Charlie Puth (2015).
  • 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • 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."
  • The Bachata singer Prince Royce released a cover of this song (with mostly Spanish lyrics) in 2010 as his first single. Royce had been selling cell phones in New York City when he started shopping his demo CD around. When he got little reaction to the songs he wrote, he decided to record one that was familiar, and he chose "Stand By Me" because it was one of his favorite songs. The ploy worked, as it garnered attention and jumpstarted his career.
  • Florence + The Machine covered the song for Final Fantasy XV. Her version features in the video game's trailer. "I've always seen Final Fantasy as mythical, beautiful and epic," Florence Welch said. "'Stand By Me' is one of the greatest songs probably of all time and you can't really improve on it, you just have to make it your own. For me it was just about bringing the song into the world of Florence + The Machine and the world of Final Fantasy."
  • 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.
  • Budweiser used a version of this song by Skylar Grey in a commercial that aired during the 2018 Super Bowl between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. The spot shows the beermaker's plant in Cartersville, Georgia transforming to process water as part of disaster relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes and wildfires.
  • This has been played at countless weddings, but none more prominent than the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018. Before exchanging their vows in Windsor Castle, Karen Gibson and The Kingdom Choir performed a stirring gospel rendition of the song, which was chosen by the couple.
  • An ambient version by the artist Bootstraps (Jordan Beckett) got the attention of music supervisors and landed a number of placements, including the Power Rangers movie (2017) and episodes of MacGyver, Lethal Weapon and Hawaii Five-0.

    Bootstraps included the song on his 2016 album Homage at the last minute. In a Songfacts interview, he explained why it works so well in visual media. "A lot of my songs that have done really well in the sync world are pretty linear - they don't have these big, huge chorus hits," he said. "'Stand By Me,' which has hands down been the biggest sync song I've done, has no kick drum. It has a lot of atmospherics, and the chorus is kind of slowly growing into a swell. So it's really good for an editor, and that's just the pragmatics of TV and film."
  • Ben E. King had a strong background in church music and "Stand By Me" was inspired by a wish to update an early 20th century spiritual based on Psalm 46.

Comments: 36

  • Bill M from Illinois UsaToday, on Sirius/XM 60s on 6 (Top 600 Songs of the 1960s hours 1), there was a song called "I'll Be There." I'd swear the melody was exactly the same as Stand By Me. Does anyone know if this was a follow up song to Stand By Me? Sorry, I didn't hear the artists name, but you would be certain it was "Stand By Me" except the lyrics were changed to "I'll Be There" almost as if she was saying yes, I'll Stand by You.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer:
    Former Drifter and solo star Ben E. King died Thursday (May 1st, 2015) of apparently natural causes at the age of 76. Ben was born in Henderson, North Carolina, but moved to Harlem at the age of 9. While still in high school he sang briefly with the Moonglows before joining the Five Crowns in 1957. When the manager of the already-successful Drifters decided to fire the entire group the next year in a contract dispute, he replaced them with the Five Crowns, including Ben. Ben co-wrote and sang lead on the Crown/Drifters first hit, "There Goes My Baby" (#2-1959). Ben also sang lead on "Save The Last Dance For Me" (#1-1960), "I Count The Tears" (#17-1961) and "This Magic Moment" (#16-1960), but only cut 13 songs with the group before leaving in a his own dispute for a solo career in 1960. His first session for Atco Records yielded "Spanish Harlem" (#10-1961) and "Stand By Me" (#4-1961 and again #9 when it was re-released thanks to the movie with the same name in 1986). Other hits included "Amor" (#18-1961), "Don't Play That Song" (#11-1962) and "I (Who Have Nothing" (#29-1963). While his career ebbed in the late '60s, it was revived with "Supernatural Thing" (#5) in 1975. Ben was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 11th 1966, "Stand By Me" by Spyder Turner entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #99; and eight weeks later on February 5th, 1967 it peaked at #12 {for 2 weeks} and it also spent 12 weeks on the Top 100...
    On the record he performed in the style of the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, and Chuck Jackson...
    It reached #3 on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    He had one other Top 100 record, "I Can't Make It Anymore", it stayed on the chart for two weeks, peaking at #95...
    Spyder, born Dwight David Turner, will celebrate his 68th birthday in two months on February 4th {2015}.
  • Mecid from Baku, AzerbaijanJohn Lennon did it better than king . because he is greatest
  • Pierre from Chelsea, Quebec, CanadaInteresting cover of that classic, one of the best songs ever, by DION DIMUCCI - the Great One - on his album DION - NEW MASTERS (2003).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThe 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...
  • Au-yeung from Hong Kong, Hong KongA great song, delight everybody in their hearts with love and friendships.
  • Brad from Lexington, KyJohn Lennon's version kills every other version of this song ever created. Hands down.
  • Adam from South Pasadena, Israelthis 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 us
  • John from Salem, CaThis 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 Did anyone here catch BEK's performance at the Mark Twain Prize for George Carlin? It was great. Video posted with article.
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaLove those strings by Stan Applebaum..a work of genius!
  • Caitlin from Upper Township, NjSuch 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 cheesy
  • Randy from Tonawanda, NyStand 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.
  • Nunzio from Darwin, AustraliaThe 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.
  • Kevin from Memphis , TnA+ 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.
  • Raymond from Sydney , AustraliaThis 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.
  • Guy from Woodinville, WaI'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!
  • Daniel from Sayreville, NjI think this song is wonderful, but it would be better if it was longer.
  • Patrick from Omagh, IrelandThe 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 from Omagh, IrelandThe 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.
  • Swansong200 from Calhoun, GaOn 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.
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrLennon's version: great. King's version: best.
  • Kim from London, Englandi love this song so much, i'm getting married next year and we are having our first dance together to this song!
  • Philip from Calcutta, IndiaThere 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.
  • Jazzz from FrankfurtI 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.
  • Markus from Stockholm, SwedenI actually have to agree that Ben E. King sings it better than John Lennon
  • Markus from Stockholm, SwedenI 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 speak
  • Gary from Manchester, Englandthis 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.
  • Teresa from Mechelen, BelgiumThe cover version by John Lennon is produced by Phil Spector; it's very good.
  • Fred from New York, NyThat wasn't too rare in Soul music, Robert. People would take Gospel music and take out the references to God to make Soul.
  • Ben from Cheverly, Mdthis is my favorite love song EVER!
  • Niall from Ireland, Irelandthe novella/short story was called "The Body"
  • Robert from Puyallup, WaI 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.
  • Brad from Center Line, MiUgh. It wasn't a novel, it was a short story (see above). It isn't Steven King, it is Stephen.
  • Bree Roxanne from Bristol, EnglandI really love this song, it reminds me of my fantastic holiday last year.i could listen to it all night.
  • AnonymousI 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.
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