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Ben E. King Biography


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Birth Name: Benjamin Earl Nelson
Born: 1938/09/28
Birth Place: Harlem, New York City, New York, United States
Years Active: 1958–present
Genres: Soul, Rhythm And Blues


Ben E. King (born September 28, 1938) is an American soul singer. King was born in Henderson, North Carolina and moved to Harlem, New York, at age 9.

In 1958, King joined a doo wop group called The Five Crowns. Later in 1958, The Drifters' manager George Treadwell fired the members of the original The Drifters, and replaced them with The Five Crowns. King had a string of R&B hits with the group on Atlantic Records. He co-wrote and sang lead on the first Atlantic hit by the new version of The Drifters, 1959’s “There Goes My Baby.” He also sang lead on a succession of hits by the team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, including “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment” and “I Count the Tears.”

King only recorded 13 songs with The Drifters — two backing other lead singers and 11 lead vocal performances — including a non-single called “Temptation.” The last of the King-led The Drifters singles to be released was “Sometimes I Wonder,” which was recorded in May 1960 but not issued until June 1962.

Due to a contract dispute with Treadwell in which King and his manager, Lover Patterson, demanded that King be given a salary increase and a fair share of royalties, King never again performed with The Drifters on tour or on television. In May 1960, King left The Drifters, assuming the more memorable stage name Ben E. King in preparation for a successful solo career.

Remaining on Atlantic Records on its Atco imprint, King scored his first solo hit with the 1961 ballad “Spanish Harlem.” His next single, “Stand by Me,” written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, ultimately would be voted as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America. “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 each of those records as well as “"Save The Last Dance For Me” has earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

King's other well-known songs include “Don't Play That Song (You Lied) ,” “Amor,” “Seven Letters,” “How Can I Forget,” “On the Horizon,” "Young Boy Blues,” “First Taste of Love,” “Here Comes the Night,” “Ecstasy” and “That's When It Hurts.”

King's records continued to place well on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart until 1965. British pop bands began to dominate the pop music scene, but King still continued to make R&B hits, including 1966’s “What is Soul?,” 1967’s "Tears, Tears, Tears" and 1975’s “Supernatural Thing” A 1986 re-issue of “Stand by Me” followed the song's use as the theme song to the movie “Stand By Me” and re-entered the Billboard Top 10 after a 25-year absence.

In 1990, King and Bo Diddley, along with Doug Lazy, recorded a revamped hip-hop version of The Monotones' 1958 hit song “Book of Love” for the soundtrack of the movie “Book of Love.” He also recorded a children's album, “I Have Songs In My Pocket,” written and produced by children's music artist Bobby Susser in 1998, which won the Early Childhood News' Directors' Choice Award and Dr. Toy's/The Institute For Childhood Resources Award.

As a member of The Drifters and as a solo artist, King had achieved five #1 hits and earned 12 Top 10 hits and 25 Top 40 hits from 1959 to 1986. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Drifters and he has also been nominated as a solo artist.