Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesSinger Ben E. King, best known for his work with The Drifters and his classic solo hit, “Stand by Me,” has died at age 76. King’s booking agent confirms his passing to ABC News Radio.
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson in North Carolina, King moved with his family to Harlem, New York, when he was nine. Eleven years later, he joined a new incarnation of The Drifters and sang lead on many of the group’s biggest hits, including “There Goes My Baby,” “This Magic Moment” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
Two years later, a dispute with the singing group’s management prompted King to leave The Drifters for a solo career, where he scored a hit with his first single, “Spanish Harlem.” But it was his second single, the Leiber & Stoller composition “Stand by Me,” released in 1961, that has proven King’s most enduring tune, and has become a rock and pop classic.
King’s chart success waned as the British Invasion took over America’s radio airwaves, though he continued to perform throughout his life. In 1988, King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Drifters. Last March, the National Recording Registry added King’s original performance of “Stand by Me” to its permanent collection, joining other recordings judged to be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
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