Ben E. King is one of the great baritone voices of the early soul music generation, with The Drifters and solo. Born in North Carolina, he grew up in Harlem and sang in church and in doo-wop groups.
After working as a singing waiter he joined the Five Crowns in 1958, which became The Drifters (after the sacking of the Clyde McPhatter-led version). King sang on thirteen on their heavily-orchestrated gorgeous songs, including "There Goes My Baby" (which he co-wrote), "Save The Last Dance For Me" and "This Magic Moment". He rarely performed with them due to an ongoing contract dispute, being replaced by others for television and concert appearances.
In '60 he quit The Drifters to go solo, hitting big with "Spanish Harlem", "Don't Play That Song (You Lied)", "I (Who Have Nothing)" and especially "Stand By Me" (a song he co-wrote with Leiber & Stoller). His popularity declined a bit during the rock years but he kept up his career and had a #1 hit in '75 with the funk monster "Supernatural Thing".
In '79 he collaborated with Average White Band on the album Benny & Us. The massive success of the 1986 movie Stand By Me drove the song to #1 that year. He re-cut the Monotones 1958 hit "The Book of Love" with Bo Diddley and Doug Lazy for the 1990 film Book of Love. He guested with Mark Knopfler, Heaven 17 and others and also made a well-received children's album in '98. In '99 he cut a jazz big-band album (Shades of Blue). He kept on touring right up until his death and his place as a legend of soul music is firm.