Jukebox Alive: Stand By Me – Ben E. King

It’s difficult to find a video of a young Ben E. King singing “Stand by Me.” Most of the videos that are out there are from 1986. That’s when the classic was re-released as the theme for the Hollywood movie of the same name. In one prominent video, King looked and sounded good but he was 25 years older than when he released the original hit in 1961.

In looking for an earlier version of King performing on TV, I discovered there weren’t any complete videos. They all had missing pieces and parts. In this version, I cut edited together what was available from different sources and added a clean soundtrack. I am quite happy with the results.

A little history on the song: Ben E. King was the primary songwriter and his creation was inspired and influenced by a spiritual he liked that was written by Sam Cooke and J.W. Alexander. King had the song near completion when he enlisted the team of Leiber and Stoller to help with the finishing touches. Leiber and Stoller later said King wrote half the song, they each did 25%.

In June 1961, this rock and soul classic rose to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 in the Cashbox Top 100. When King’s version was re-released in the ’80s, to coincide with the flick, “Stand By Me,” reached #1 in the U.K. and #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Ben E. King recorded the definitive version, but “Stand By Me” has been a hit for a number of artists including John Lennon, Mickey Gilley, and  Playing For Change. (Since the video is on Vimeo, no ads on Vimeo, click on the play button 2x, once to get to Vimeo and again to start the video.)

Author: Steven Smith

Presently editor and historical writer with QZVX.COM in Seattle. Former radio broadcaster and radio station owner, 1970-1999. Journalism and speech communications degrees. I enjoy researching articles and online reporting that allows me to meld together words, audio and video. P.S. I appreciate and encourage reader comments and opinions. View other articles by Steven Smith

4 thoughts on “Jukebox Alive: Stand By Me – Ben E. King

  1. Jay,
    You are right, Cassius did an amazingly good version. I knew he did it but had not listened to it. I remember the country efforts and some songs by Terry Bradshaw and Barbi Benton (Playboy model) I think Cassius knocked the socks of both of them.

  2. Boy! Terrific job on the video Steven. You should be delighted with the results!
    A younger Ben E King had been (like Clyde McPhatter before him) the lead vocalist for The Drifters. He was lead vocalist on The Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby” & other hits.
    The 1986 Rob Reiner movie “Stand By Me” was based on the Stephen King novella
    “The Body”. Reiner came up with the new film title when it was felt the original title was misleading, sounding too much like a bodybuilding or sex film. The use of the song introduced a whole new generation to “Stand By Me” and the film itself introduced movie goers to two superb young actors … River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton.
    In 1964, while I was PD at KSEM in Moses Lake, I added an unusual cover of “Stand By Me” to our playlist. It eventually made only the Bubbling Under section of the Billboard charts, but I felt it was a musically credible version of the song and it did well on our Request Line. It was performed by a young boxer by the name of Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali. Here’s young Cassius and his version of “Stand By Me”:

    1. Whoa! The Cassius Clay version is outstanding! I was amused by his bravado but he always kept his word.

  3. Well…my old man brain kicked in!….I thought that I remembered a version of this tune, sung by none other than Cassius Clay, in 1963!….why I would remember this, cannot be easily answered!

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