Voiceover by Lawrence Standifer Stevens
Written by Joseph E. Casanova
Known for his signature ballad “Stand by Me,” former Drifter Ben E. King left a legacy spanning both generations and cultures.
Mom and Dad introduced me to the music of their generation when I was in fifth grade. They received one of those greatest hits of the 50’s collections featuring 52 timeless classics on five LPs. Who still remembers LPs?
One of my favorite numbers was “Save the Last Dance for Me”, a #1 pop/soul ditty for the legendary doo-wop group, the Drifters featuring Ben E. King on vocals.
I spent hours listening to those songs on my mom’s console stereo. She always had to flip the record over for more because I was too young to handle “something so expensive”. I practically wore out the grooves to some of their favorite pieces of vinyl.
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson in 1938, he also sang lead on the perennial favorites “There Goes My Baby” and “This Magic Moment”. Ben E. King recently passed away at age 76 in Hackensack, New Jersey.
King later left the Drifters and scored two signature solo hits, “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand by Me”, which he co-wrote. The latter hit the Billboard top ten again in 1986, when it was used as the title song for the coming-of-age film based on Stephen King’s novella “The Body”.
Latin pop and Bacchata superstar Prince Royce breathed new life into the classic with a chart-topping, bilingual version in 2009. Royce even shared the stage with King at the following year’s Latin Grammy Awards in Las Vegas for a once-in-a-lifetime performance.
I never had the chance to see the famous crooner’s original version done live, but I do plan to catch Prince Royce’s rendition during his Austin concert this fall.
A few days after I heard the news of King’s passing, I found myself playing both versions of “Stand by Me” as well as a few Drifters tunes. I couldn’t help but sing along.
Don’t forget to save the last dance for us, Mr. King, because I think we’d all like a turn.