Ben E. King has died. He was 76. As with the recent passing of Percy Sledge it’s easy to think, straight away, of one song. One monumental song. With Sledge it was When A Man Loves A Woman. With King it was Stand By Me.
The song transcends the notion of having been written, of having been performed, it’s one of just a small handful of tunes that seems to have just always been, as strong as any classical theme, a revelation from the opening hint. That stirring arrangement, the mood instantly conjured. And there was the version by John Lennon too. As others have said, when John Lennon covers your song you know you’ve done something right…
Not at all a One Hit Wonder. But if he was – if it was just about Stand By Me – then what a song.
You can hear Sam Cooke and Brook Benton and Clyde McPhatter in Ben E. King’s soul and sound. Influences, guiding spirits.
Stand By Me is one of those songs, like Dock of the Bay, whenever I hear it I’m reminded that I could never be alone in this world. Not with such beautiful songs. Ben E. King, through the singing of that song, was one of my favourite singers when I was just five years old. His voice has stayed with me ever since.