R&B legend Ben E. King, who co-wrote and performed the classic hit “Stand by Me”, has died at the age of 76.

King’s publicist Phil Brown confirmed the sad news to BBC and said, “He passed away yesterday from natural causes.”

Ben E. King

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Though King was born in North Carolina, he was raised in Harlem, where he joined a doo-wop group called the Five Crowns in 1958. The members were all fired by the group’s manager, but they later formed their own band called The Drifters. He co-wrote “There Goes My Baby”, the band’s 1st big hit in 1959. The band further rose to fame through various hit singles like “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “This Magic Moment”, but that was before King decided to leave the band due to a contract dispute.

King kickstarted his solo career in 1960 and released “Spanish Harlem”, his 1st solo hit in 1961. He then released “Stand By Me”, a song he originally intended to sing for The Drifters. The band turned the song down, but it became one of the ageless songs that everyone knew by heart. The song made it into Billboard‘s top 5 in 1961 and climbed the charts again when a movie of the same name debuted in 1986.

King’s other hits include “Amor”, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”, and “Supernatural Thing – Part I”. He was a mainstay on R&B radio into the mid-70s.

Upon hearing the news about King’s death, celebrities and musicians alike have taken to social media platforms to express their shock and send their condolences.

Musician Gary U.S. Bonds updated his Facebook about King’s death and called him “one of the sweetest, gentles and gifted souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend for more than 50 years.”

He added:

Speaking for myself, my family & my Roadhouse Rockers family, I can tell you that Ben E. will be missed more than words can say. Our sincere condolences go out to Betty and the entire family. Thank you Ben E. for your friendship and the wonderful legacy you leave behind.

Prince Royce, who performed “Stand By Me” with King on Latin Grammys in 2010, also expressed his shock and sent his condolence to the legend on Twitter:

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Rest in peace, Ben E. King. You will forever be missed.

(Source: BBC via Stereogum / Image source: 2st)

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