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'Stand by Me' soul singer Ben E. King dies at 76

Ben E. King was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at its 43rd annual awards ceremony on June 14, 2012, in New York.
Ben E. King was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at its 43rd annual awards ceremony on June 14, 2012, in New York. Larry Busacca/Getty Images North America/AFP

American soul singer Ben E. King, whose classic songs "Stand by Me" and "This Magic Moment" became worldwide hits in the 1950s and '60s, has died at the age of 76, his publicist said on Friday.

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King died of natural causes on Thursday, spokesman Phil Brown told AFP.

Born Benjamin Earl Nelson on September 28, 1938, in Henderson, North Carolina, King moved to Harlem, New York, at the age of 9, according to his website.

He got his musical start with a doo wop group called The Five Crowns in 1958 after George Treadwell, who managed The Drifters, fired the group's original band members and replaced them with The Five Crowns.

King had a series of R&B hits with the new Drifters lineup on Atlantic Records, including co-writing and singing lead on their first hit, "There Goes My Baby", in 1959. King recorded only 13 songs with The Drifters, singing lead on hits such as "Save the Last Dance for Me", "This Magic Moment" and "I Count the Tears".

Following a contract dispute with Treadwell, King left the Drifters in May 1960 and adopted the stage name of Ben E. King. Remaining on Atlantic Records (under its Atco imprint), King’s first solo hit was "Spanish Harlem" in 1961. His next single "Stand by Me", which was written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, would eventually be voted No. 25 on the list of 50 Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America.

"Stand by Me", "There Goes My Baby" and "Spanish Harlem" were named three of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and all received Grammy Hall of Fame awards, as did "Save the Last Dance for Me".

King spent his later years remaining active in a charitable organisation he founded, the Stand By Me Foundation, and also helped establish the Global Village Champions Foundation along with Muhammad Ali, Gary US Bonds and Yank Barry.

He lived in Teaneck, New Jersey, from the late 1960s until his death.

For more information see King's official website at www.beneking.info.
 

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