He began his career fairly obscurely while still in high school singing with a Doo-Wop group “The Four B’s” and then migrating from North Carolina to New York in 1959 he joined The Five Crowns as a grumbling bass singer. He was quickly promoted to lead singer, when the entire personnel of The Five Crowns replaced the personnel in The Drifters. Using string sections to replace guitar or sax parts and Ben’s emotive voice. The Drifters recorded “There Goes My Baby”, “Dance With Me”, “Save The Last Dance For Me and many other tunes of this vocal group’s “High Summer” and in 1960 Ben decided to pursue a solo career.
After leaving the group he recorded the classic single “Spanish Harlem” (1961), maintaining the Latin quality of The Drifter’s work and became a Top Ten hit in the States. The follow-up single “Stand By Me” was an even greater success which has also gone down as a true sixties classic, with cover versions by Kenny Lynch, Muhammed Ali and John Lennon etc.
Further successes were achieved with “Amor” (1961, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied” (1962), and throughout this period King’s material was aimed at more of a popular audience, with his translations of the Italian song “I (Who Have Nothing)”, covered by Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey and “I Could Have Danced All Night”, directed more towards the show businesses world rather than any Soul innovation.
Other releases followed such as “It’s All Over” (1964), “Seven Letters” (1965), “The Record (Baby I Love You)” (1965), preparing the way for the rhetorical “What Is Soul?” (1967) which put King firmly alongside the other Soul greats such as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Joe Tex etc., at the time. At the end of the 60s, King left the Atlantic/Atco label and didn’t re-sign until 1975 with a Top Ten hit “Supernatural Thing Part 1”.
Collaboration in 1977 with the Average White Band resulted in the excellent album “Benny And Us”. However, 1980s albums “Music Trance” and “Street Tough” failed to lift Ben’s career any further, but he fronted an excellent Drifters Tour in 1981 which rekindled interest for a while.
The film “Stand By Me” and a T.V. advert for Levi Jeans in 1986 saw the song rush to number 1 in the U.K. and number 9 in the U.S.A., and it charted again nearly everywhere globally, giving King’s career a much needed revival and boost, and assuring “Stand By Me” as one of the classic hits of all time. Ben E. King is without doubt one of the all time great veteran interpreters of soul.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]
- 1. I Promise Love
- 2. Spanish Harlem
- 3. Young Boy Blues
- 4. First Taste Of Love
- 5. Brace Yourself
- 6. A Help-Each-Other Romance
- 7. Show Me The Way
- 8. How Often
- 9. Kiss And Make Up
- 10. I’ll Forget About You
- 11. Stand By Me
- 12. Amor