On this day in music history: April 26, 1961 - “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King is released. Written by Benjamin Earl Nelson, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it is the sixth solo single for the R&B and pop vocal legend. In spite of recording several classics as the lead singer of The Drifters including the classics “There Goes My Baby”, “This Magic Moment” and “Save The Last Dance For Me”, a contractual dispute with manager George Treadwell drives Ben E. King out of the group in mid 1960. Continuing to work with the songwriting and production team of Leiber and Stoller, King begins recording on his own. After his initial solo releases “Brace Yourself” and “A Help-Each-Other Romance” (duet with LaVern Baker) fail to make an impression on the charts. On October 27, 1960, King is recording at Atlantic Studios in New York City, working on the song “Spanish Harlem” (#10 Pop, #15 R&B) which becomes his first major solo hit. With time still left in the session, Leiber and Stoller ask King if he has any more songs. The singer plays them an unfinished song he had originally intended to record with The Drifters. Inspired by the song “Stand By Me Father”, written by Sam Cooke during his days as lead singer of The Soul Stirrers, Leiber and Stoller re-work the initial melody and Ben and Jerry write the lyrics. Calling the musicians back, the song now titled “Stand By Me” is quickly recorded. Before the session concludes, all involved know that they have created something special. Released in the Spring of 1961, “Stand By Me” makes its impact felt immediately. An instant classic, it quickly rises up the R&B and pop singles charts, spending four weeks at #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart beginning on May 29, 1961, and peaking at #4 on the Hot 100 on June 12, 1961. Following its release, “Stand By Me” is covered numerous times over the years, including versions by John Lennon, Spyder Turner, Mickey Gilley and Maurice White. Ben E. King’s original recording has a long life after its initial run on the charts. In 1986, director Rob Reiner uses the song as the theme to his film “Stand By Me”, based on the Stephen King short story “The Body”. Featured prominently on the oldies dominated soundtrack, Atlantic Records reissues the song as a single. Driven by the popularity of the film, “Stand By Me” re-enters the Billboard Hot 100, and returns to the top ten, peaking at #9 in December of 1986, over twenty five years after it had originally charted. The song becomes a smash in the UK a second time, thanks to its inclusion in the film, and being featured in a popular commercial for Levi’s jeans, sending the single to #1. In 1998, “Stand By Me” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame, in 2012 receives the Towering Song Award by the Songwriters Hall Of Fame, and in 2015, King’s original recording is selected for inclusion into the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress, just five weeks before the singer’s passing.
thanks to the most excellent Jeff Harris' blog 'Behind The Grooves