Wednesday, September 4, 2019

"Stand By Me" by Ben E. King

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2881
Date:  10/04/1986
Debut:  95
Peak:  9
Weeks:  21
Genre:  Soul, R&B, Pop, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  As a member of The Drifters, King sang the lead on two of their biggest hits, "There Goes My Baby" (#1 R&B/#2 Pop, 1959) and "Save the Last Dance for Me" (#1 R&B/#1 Pop, 1960). He left the group in 1960 for a solo career and had immediate success with the 1960 #10 Pop/#15 R&B hit "Spanish Harlem." His follow-up single that he co-wrote, "Stand By Me," would be his biggest solo hit reaching #4 Pop and #1 R&B. He would continue to place songs on the Pop and R&B charts throughout the 60s, but nothing would come close to the success of "Stand By Me." As the 70s began, King's career was floundering and he couldn't get anything on the charts. He signed on with Atlantic Records in 1975 and recorded the LP Supernatural Thing. The title track became a left-field hit reaching #1 at R&B and #5 Pop. He'd grab four Top 30 entries at R&B over the next few years, but his time recording for Atlantic came to an end after the disappointing performance of 1981's Street Tough. He'd then rejoin The Drifters and go out on successful tours with the group. Then in 1986 a film named after his biggest solo hit came out and King was suddenly in the spotlight again. Rob Reiner's coming-of-age film Stand By Me was set in 1959 and used hit songs from the era throughout including King's hit. The film was a box office success and led to King's tune being reissued as a single. Listeners young and old were drawn to the song and it ended up cracking the Pop Top 10 for a second time. It also made it to #10 at AC. The soundtrack album would do well getting to #31. The hit revived King's career. He signed a deal with EMI Manhattan and recorded a new album in 1987 titled Save the Last Dance for Me. The title track was a new version of the old Drifters hit and it was issued out as a single, but did not chart. Although King's revival period would be short, he would still continue to record and perform. King died in 2015.

ReduxReview:  This is certainly one of pop music's most enduring hits. In addition to being covered by scads of musicians, seven other artists besides King reached the Pop chart with versions including two in the 80s from Mickey Gilley (#22, 1980) and Maurice White (#50, 1985). Like I mention in those blog posts, I've never much cared for the tune. Yes, it's a well-written classic with a sing-a-long chorus that is hard to beat, but for some reason I just never gravitated towards it. I don't hate the song and King's original version is not necessarily something I'd turn off if it came on the radio or in a playlist, but I've just always felt meh about it. Still, the song has more than withstood the test of time and the fact that the original recording became a hit again 25 years after it was first released certainly says something. It's really hard to be mad at a true classic like this one.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) Stand By Me was the third film that Rob Reiner directed. The screenplay was an adaptation of a 1982 novella by Stephen King titled The Body. The film was a well reviewed box office hit. At the time, Stephen King thought it was the most successful transfer of any of his works to the screen. The film would earn an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.  2) "Stand By Me" is one of a minor handful of songs where the same version by the same artist reached the Pop Top 10 twice. The first song to do so was Chubby Checker's 1960 #1 "The Twist." The tune was successful when first released, but it seemed that people weren't ready to give it up yet and in 1961 it got back on the chart and went to #1 for a second time. Bobby "Boris" Pickett's holiday hit "Monster Mash" got to #1 in 1962 and then #10 in 1973. Queen's rock classic "Bohemian Rhapsody" went to #9 on it's initial release in 1976 and then did better in 1992 reaching #2 after being featured in the hit comedy film Wayne's World. Along with "Stand By Me," these are the only songs to reach the Top 10 twice as actual reissues of the original singles. In these modern times of streaming, reissues are not necessary. Most all chart hits are available on some platform and songs can regain popularity on their own and make it back on the charts. When Prince died in 2016, two of his original Top 10 hits, "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry" briefly made the Top 10 again mainly based on streaming and social media popularity.



  1. 9/10 for me. Honestly “Spanish Harlem” is a 10/10 for me. Also, how funny that this post is related to a Stephen King novel as the IT Chapter 2 movie comes out tomorrow. LOL

    1. Timing is everything! Actually, "Stand By Me" and "It" are not too far off in themes except one is a sweet film and the other is scary. Yes, "Spanish Harlem" is the superior song.

  2. I been noticing that in the past several days you've been giving the songs a 7/10, I find it to be very interesting.

    1. Yes, it has been four in a row (and actually two more to come).

  3. I consider 7/10 to be a good but unexceptional rating.