Legendary soul singer Ben E. King has died at the age of 76. Though he’s best known for his solo 1961 hit “Stand By Me,” King—then going by Ben E. Nelson—got his first break in the late ’50s with The Drifters. Together, the group released genre-defining tracks like “There Goes My Baby” and “Save The Last Dance For Me.” Members of The Drifters were paid only $100 a week by their manager and, after his request for a raise was turned down, King changed his name and went solo around the turn of the decade. He had his first hit, “Spanish Harlem,” in 1961, and followed that up with “Stand By Me,” which was written by King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller.
“Stand By Me” has had an impressively long sales record, hitting the charts both around its release and again in 1987, when it was the theme to the movie of the same name. Seven covers of the song have also charted, including those by John Lennon and Spyder Turner. Earlier this year, the track—the fourth most-played song of the 20th century on radio and TV—was added to the Library Of Congress’ National Recording Registry, with the selection committee saying, “It was King’s incandescent vocal that made it a classic.”