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Ben E. King

Ben E King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, North Carolina, in September 1938.

After moving to New York in 1949 he was reputedly discovered by Lover Patterson of The Five Crowns and joined his doo-wop group.

In 1959 The Crowns became The Drifters after the original outfit of that name split up, and King et al signed to Atlantic to work with writer/producers Lieber and Stoller. The group (with King on lead vocals) hit #1 in the US with Save The Last Dance For Me in October 1960.

During King’s time as lead singer with The Drifters, Atlantic recorded four songs with him as a solo artist almost nine months before he left the group.

All the tracks were held in abeyance until May 1960 when Otis Blackwell’s song, Brace Yourself was selected to test the waters but despite his success with The Drifters and a song by one of the most successful composers of that time, the media all but ignored the record.

King needn’t have worried as his next release, the double A-side, Spanish Harlem and First Taste Of Love fared much better.

He followed with his Lieber & Stoller co-write, Stand By Me, a classic which finally made #1 in the UK in 1987 thanks to a Levi’s television commercial. King also hit in 1963 with  I Who Have Nothing, then Don’t Play That SongSeven LettersTears Tears Tears and 1966’s What Is Soul.

He had left Atlantic by 1970 but returned in 1975 and issued the US #5, Supernatural. He collaborated with the Average White Band on Benny And Us in 1977.

Standout singles in the mid-70s included Star In The Ghetto and Supernatural Thing.

Issuing numerous tracks in the 1980s, he worked in 1990 with Bo Diddley on The Book Of Love and issued the children’s I Have Songs In My Pockets in 1998.

King died in Harlem, New York, on 30 April 2015, age 76.