b. Benjamin Earl Solomon, 28th September 1938, Sandy Greek, Warren County, North Carolina, U.S.A.
d. 30th April 2015, Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, New Jersey, U.S.A.
Ben E. King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson on the 28th of September 1938 in Henderson, North Carolina.
When he was 9 years old, his family relocated to Harlem, New York.
Initially, Ben became a member of a group called the The 4 B's (whose members included: Benjamin Earl Nelson, Billy Davis, Bobby Davis and Billy Spigner) .
five crowns circa 1958: l to r: Dock Green, Ben Nelson, James 'Papa' Clark, Elsbeary Hobbs and Charlie Thomas
At the age of 20, Ben joined a Doo Wop group called the Five Crowns, whose line-up included: James 'Papa' Clark (lead), Charlie Thomas (tenor), Benjamin Earl Nelson (second lead and baritone), Dock Green (baritone) and Elsbeary Hobbs (bass).
kiss and make up b/w i'll forget about you - 1958 - 45
The Five Crowns released one single called 'Kiss And Make Up' b/w 'I'll Forget About You'.
This group were hired later that year, replacing the complete line-up of the group the Drifters, whose manager, George Treadwell, decided to run with a new set of vocalists under that name.
A year later Ben, and the new Drifters had signed to Atlantic Records.
From 1959 onwards, they enjoyed chart success with the song 'There Goes My Baby' (a song co-penned by Ben) b/w 'Oh My Love'.
Under the writing umbrella of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, the Drifters scored again with 'Save the Last Dance for Me' b/w 'Nobody But Me' (in 1960), 'This Magic Moment' b/w 'Baltimore' (in 1960), and 'I Count the Tears' b/w 'Suddenly There's A Valley' (in 1960).
Ben performed on thirteen songs with the Drifters, however, following a dispute over royalty payments between the group's manager and Ben's (Lover Patterson), a decision was made that Ben would not appear in person on live shows, however, he would continue to record in the studio until a replacement member was found.
Ben eventually left the group in 1960, performing under his new title, Ben E. King.
He remained at Atlantic Records recording for the labels Atco imprint.
spanish harlem - 1961 / songs for soulful lovers - 1962 / don't play that song - 1962 / seven letters - 1964
His first solo release came immediately in 1961 with the release of 'Spanish Harlem' b/w 'First Taste Of Love' (in 1960), which was followed by the Lieber and Stoller song 'Stand By Me' b/w 'On The Horizon' (in 1961).
The song would later be described by Recording Industry Association of America as one of the Songs of the Century.
With the success of this song, further hits followed, including: 'Don't Play That Song (You Lied)', 'Amor', 'Seven Letters', 'How Can I Forget', 'On the Horizon', 'Young Boy Blues', 'First Taste of Love', 'Here Comes the Night', 'There Goes My Baby', 'Ecstasy', and 'That's When It Hurts'.
In 1963, the song 'I, (Who Have Nothing)' b/w 'The Beginning Of Time', reached number 30 on the charts.
young boy blues - 1964 / what is soul? - 1967 / rough edges - 1970 / the beginning of it all - 1971
For the following decade, Ben's singles continued to chart, including 'What is Soul?' b/w 'They Don't Give Medals To Yesterday's Heroes' (in 1966) and 'Tears, Tears, Tears' b/w 'A Man Without A Dream' (in 1967).
In 1968, Ben teamed up with Dee Dee Sharp for the single 'We Got A Good Thing Going On' b/w 'What'cha Gonna Do About It?'.
supernatural - 1975 / i had a love - 1976 / benny and us - 1977 / let me live in your life - 1978
In 1975, Ben charted on the R&B charts with his Soul evergreen 'Supernatural Thing Pt's. 1 & 2', reinventing his sound for a Seventies generation.
1978's album release, 'Let Me Live In Your Life', featured a popular rare groove song entitled 'Spoiled'.
By the end of the decade, Ben's sound had matured, showcased by the releases of 'Music Trance' (in 1980), and 'Street Tough' (in 1981).
music trance - 1980 / street tough - 1981
'Stand By Me' went though something of a renaissance in 1986, due to the song's inclusion in the movie soundtrack of the same name, thus re-entering the Billboard Charts for the second time.
In 1990, Ben and Bo Diddley recorded a reworked Hip Hop version of The Monotones' 1958 hit song "Book of Love" for the soundtrack of the movie 'Book of Love'.
Ben signed to the Ichiban imprint in the early Nineties, releasing the singles 'What's Important To Me' b/w 'It's Your Love (That Makes Me Happy)' (in 1991) and 'You've Got All Of Me' b/w 'It's All Right', and 'You Still Move Me' b/w 'I'm Gonna Be Somebody' (both in 1992).
The late Ahmet Ertegun once said of Ben, 'King is one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll and rhythm and blues'.
He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Drifters.
In 2013, Ben is active in his charitable foundation, the Stand By Me Foundation, and is also a founding Champion of the Global Village Champions Foundation.
He resided in Teaneck, New Jersey (and did so since the Sixties).
Ben E. King passed away on the 30th of April 2015 from natural causes.
Spanish Harlem (Atco Records 1961)
Ben E. King Sings For Soulful Lovers (Atco Records 1962)
Don't Play That Song (Atco Records 1962)
Seven Letters (Atco Records 1964)
Young Boy Blues (Clarion 1964)
What Is Soul (Atco Records 1967)
Rough Edges (Maxwell Records 1970)
Beginning Of It All (CBS Records 1971)
Supernatural (Atco Records 1975)
I Had A Love (Atco Records 1976)
with the Average White Band:
Benny And Us (Atlantic Records 1977)
Let Me Live In Your Life (Atco Records 1978)
Music Trance (Atlantic Records 1980)
Street Tough (Atlantic Records 1981)
Save The Last Dance For Me (EMI Records 1988)