Monday, September 28, 2009

Happy Birthday: Ben E. King

Soul singer/song-writer Ben E. King, born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, North Carolina on Sept.28, 1938, later relocated to Harlem, NYC with his family at the age of nine. He got his music career started in 1958 with a doo-wop group called The Five Crowns, who would later replace the orignal members of The Drifters after their manager fired all of the members. Nelson co-wrote the first hit by the new version of The Drifters, "There Goes My Baby" (1959). He also sang lead, using his birth name, on "Save the Last Dance for Me", a song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, "Dance With Me", "This Magic Moment", "I Count the Tears" and "Lonely Winds". King only recorded ten songs with The Drifters, including a non-single called "Temptation" which was later redone by Johnny Moore.

In 1960, he left the Drifters after failing to gain a salary increase and what he felt to be a fairer share of the group's royalties. At this point he assumed the more memorable stage name Ben E. King in preparation for a successful solo career. Remaining on Atlantic Records, King scored his first solo hit with the ballad "Spanish Harlem" (1961). "Stand by Me" was his next recording. Written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, "Stand by Me" was voted one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "Stand by Me", "There Goes My Baby" and "Spanish Harlem" were named as three of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and were all given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, as well as "Save The Last Dance For Me". His other well known songs were "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)" (which was covered by Aretha Franklin in the 1970s), "Amor", "Seven Letters", "How Can I Forget", "On the Horizon", "Young Boy Blues", "I (Who Have Nothing)", "First Taste of Love", "Here Comes the Night", "Ecstasy", That's When It Hurts , Down Home , River of Tears , Do It in the Name of Love , and It's All Over .

In the summer of 1963, King had a top 30 national hit with "I (Who Have Nothing)", a song that reached the Top 10 on New York's radio station, WMCA. The song has been covered many times, notably by Luther Vandross & Martha Wash, John Lennon, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Sylvester James, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Jedi Mind Tricks, and most recently by American Idol contestant Jordin Sparks, during the March 20, 2007 and May 15, 2007 telecasts. King's records continued to place well on the Billboard Hot 100 chart until 1965. British pop bands began to dominate the pop music scene, but King still continued to make R&B hits and minor Pop hits. King's other hits were "What is Soul?" (1967), "Supernatural Thing, Part 1" (1975), and the re-issue in 1986 of "Stand by Me", following the song's use as the theme music to Stand By Me movie.

Throughout his career he has achieved five number one hits, which were "There Goes My Baby", "Save The Last Dance For Me", "Stand By Me", "Supernatural Thing", and the 1986 re-issue of "Stand By Me". He also earned twelve Top 10 hits and Twenty four Top 40 hits, from 1959 to 1986. He has also been inducted to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as a Drifters member and nominated for his career as a solo artist but not yet accepted.

Currently, King is active in his charitable foundation, the Stand By Me Foundation. He has been a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey since the late 1960s.

1 comment:

  1. Ben E. King should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - more on his own merit than as a member of the Drifters. Some of the Drifters biggest hits were written by him, not to mention one of the biggest hits of all time - Stand By Me - written and performed by him. I feel this is long overdue. What can we all do to get him inducted? He's not a young man anymore and I'd sure hate to see another artist be inducted postumously.