On the 27th October 1960 American singer Ben E. King recorded the renowned song Stand By Me. Released the following year it was his second solo single after quitting the American R&B and doo-wop band The Drifters, and went on to be voted one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America. According to BMI – the largest performing rights organisation in the USA – it was the fourth most performed song of the 20th Century.
Accounts of the recording of Stand By Me differ with some claiming that, having been in the studio to record what was to become his debut solo hit, Spanish Harlem, there was some spare time at the end of the session. The producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, asked if King had any other songs and liked Stand By Me enough to call the session musicians back in to the studio and record it.
Other accounts – including that of co-writer and producer Mike Stoller – claim that the song was written by King, Stoller and Leiber in the songwriters’ office after King was inspired by an older spiritual song. Stoller and Leiber were already renowned songwriters having written such monumental hits as Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock that were recorded by Elvis Presley, so Stoller’s account seems to be the more likely one.
They were also hugely influential record producers who mentored Phil Spector before he went on to become an important record producer in his own right. Interestingly, it was Spector who produced John Lennon’s cover version of Stand By Me released in 1975.