‘Stand by Me’ Singer Ben E. King Dies at 76

American soul and R&B singer-songwriter Ben E. King, 14th August 1974. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Ben E. King. Photo: Michael Putland/Getty

R&B singer Ben E. King died Thursday of natural causes at the age of 76, his publicist says. He was best known for his hit “Stand by Me,” which hit No. 4 in 1961 and then charted again in 1986, after it was used on the soundtrack to the Wil Wheaton film of the same name. King originally wrote the song for his doo-wop group the Drifters — after leaving the group in a contract dispute, King threw it on tape at the end of the recording session for his first single, working out the song’s famous bass line with producers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. “Stand by Me” went on to become the fourth-most-played song of the 20th century, covered by everyone from John Lennon to David Archuleta to Cassius Clay (before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali). King’s other hits included “Spanish Harlem” (the song he originally went to the studio to record) and, with the Drifters, “There Goes My Baby.”

Ben E. King Dies at 76