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Playing for Change - Stand By Me (Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien 2009)

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Stand By Me on Wikipedia
"Stand by Me"
Single by Ben E. King
from the album Don't Play That Song!
B-side"On the Horizon"
Format7" single, 12" single
RecordedOctober 27, 1960
GenreSoul, rhythm and blues
Writer(s)Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s)Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Ben E. King singles chronology
"Stand by Me"
Single by John Lennon
from the album Rock 'n' Roll
B-side"Move Over Ms. L"
ReleasedMarch 10, 1975
Format7" vinyl
Writer(s)Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s)John Lennon
John Lennon singles chronology
"Stand by Me"
Stand by Me Mickey Gilley.jpg
Single by Mickey Gilley
from the album Urban Cowboy
B-side"Here Comes the Hurt Again"
ReleasedMay 31, 1980
Writer(s)Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s)Jim Ed Norman
Mickey Gilley singles chronology
"Stand by Me"
MW stand by me.jpg
Single by Maurice White
from the album Maurice White
Format7", 12"
GenreRhythm and blues, soul
Writer(s)Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s)Maurice White
"Stand by Me"
Single by 4 the Cause
from the album Stand by Me
ReleasedSeptember 18, 1998
GenreSoul, Hip hop music
Writer(s)Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s)Michael Vitoria, Funky Be
4 the Cause singles chronology
"Stand by Me"
Prince Royce-Stand By Me 3.jpg
Single by Prince Royce
from the album Prince Royce
LabelTop Stop Music
Writer(s)Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s)Sergio George
Prince Royce singles chronology

"Stand by Me" is a song originally performed by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King, written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. According to King, the song title is derived and was inspired by a spiritual composition by Sam Cooke called "Stand by Me Father" (although Mike Stoller has stated differently). This spiritual was sung by the Soul Stirrers with Johnnie Taylor singing lead. The third line of the second verse of "Stand by Me" derives from Psalms 46:2c.[1] There have been over 400 recorded versions of "Stand by Me" performed by many artists. The song has been featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 film Stand by Me. A music video was also released to promote the film.

In 2012 it was estimated that the song's royalties had topped £17 million, making it the sixth highest earning song as of that time. 50% of the royalties were paid to King.[2]

In 2015, King's original version was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant",[3] just under five weeks before King's death. Later in the year the 2015 line up of the Drifters covered the song in tribute to King.


  • 1 Song information
    • 1.1 Structure
  • 2 Notable cover versions
  • 3 Chart performance
    • 3.1 Ben E. King
    • 3.2 John Lennon
    • 3.3 Mickey Gilley
    • 3.4 Maurice White
    • 3.5 4 the Cause
    • 3.6 Prince Royce
    • 3.7 Florence + The Machine
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References

Song information

According to the documentary History of Rock 'n' Roll, Ben E. King had no intention of recording the song himself.[4] King had written it for the Drifters, who passed on recording it. After the "Spanish Harlem" recording session, he had some studio time left over. The session's producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, asked if he had any more songs. King played "Stand by Me" on the piano for them. They liked it and called the studio musicians back in to record it.

Stoller recalls it differently:

I remember arriving at our office as Jerry and Ben were working on lyrics for a new song. King had the beginnings of a melody that he was singing a cappella. I went to the piano and worked up the harmonies, developing a bass pattern that became the signature of the song. Ben and Jerry quickly finished the lyrics ... .[5]

In another interview, Stoller said:

Ben E. had the beginnings of a song—both words and music. He worked on the lyrics together with Jerry, and I added elements to the music, particularly the bass line. To some degree, it's based on a gospel song called "Lord Stand By Me". I have a feeling that Jerry and Ben E. were inspired by it. Ben, of course, had a strong background in church music. He's a 50% writer on the song, and Jerry and I are 25% each.... When I walked in, Jerry and Ben E. were working on the lyrics to a song. They were at an old oak desk we had in the office. Jerry was sitting behind it, and Benny was sitting on the top. They looked up and said they were writing a song. I said, "Let me hear it."... Ben began to sing the song a cappella. I went over to the upright piano and found the chord changes behind the melody he was singing. It was in the key of A. Then I created a bass line. Jerry said, "Man that's it!" We used my bass pattern for a starting point and, later, we used it as the basis for the string arrangement created by Stanley Applebaum.[6]

The personnel on the song included Romeo Penque on sax, Ernie Hayes on piano, Al Caiola and Charles McCracken on guitars, Lloyd Trotman on double bass, Phil Kraus on percussion, and Gary Chester on drums, plus a wordless mixed chorus and strings. Songwriting credits on the single were shown as King and Elmo Glick—a pseudonym used by Leiber and Stoller.

King's record went to No. 1 on the R&B charts[7] and was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. charts twice—in its original release, entering the Billboard chart on May 13, 1961[8] and peaking at No. 4 on June 16, 1961, and a 1986 re-release coinciding with its use as the theme song for the movie of the same name following its appearance in the film, when it peaked at No. 9, and also in an advertisement for Levi Jeans. It also reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1987 after its re-release, mostly because of the jeans spot, originally reaching No. 27 on its first release.

The song was not released on an album until it had been out as a single for two years. The song appeared on King's Don't Play That Song! album.

"Stand by Me" was ranked 122nd on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 1999, BMI named it as the fourth most-performed song of the 20th century, with about seven million performances.[9]

On March 27, 2012, the Songwriters Hall of Fame announced that "Stand by Me" would receive its 2012 Towering Song Award and that King would be honored with the 2012 Towering Performance Award for his recording of it.[10]


The song uses a version of the common chord progression now called the 50s progression, which has been called the "'Stand by Me' changes" after the song.[11]

Notable cover versions

  • Adriano Celentano's 1962 Italian version, "Pregherò" (meaning "I will pray") reached no. 1 on the Italian charts.[12]
  • Muhammad Ali (as Cassius Clay) released a cover on his 1963 spoken-word/comedy album I Am the Greatest. The cover, released as the B-side of the eponymous single in 1964,[13] would chart on the Billboard "Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles".[14] It was included on the CD Beat Of The Pops Vol 34.
  • Spyder Turner's 1967 version climbed to No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Black Singles chart and No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[15]
  • John Lennon recorded his version of the song for his 1975 album Rock 'n' Roll. Lennon's remake was his last hit prior to his five-year retirement from the music industry. Lennon filmed a performance of the song for The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975.[16] On May 3, 1975 this version peaked at #20 on the US Hot 100, right in front of King's comeback hit "Supernatural Thing - Part I" at #21.
  • Mickey Gilley released his version of the song in 1980, it was included in the movie Urban Cowboy. It was his eighth #1 on the US country charts and also reached #22 on the US Hot 100.
  • Maurice White's 1985 cover peaked at number 6, 11 and 50 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, Adult Contemporary and Billboard Hot 100 charts, respectively.[17]
  • A version of the song released by American R&B group 4 The Cause in 1998 was a #1 hit in Switzerland, reached No. 2 of the Austrian and German singles charts and number three in New Zealand, and was a top-ten hit in several other countries.[18][19]
  • Prince Royce recorded a bachata version of the song as his debut single, changing parts of the lyrics into Spanish. This version peaked No. 8 on US Hot Latin Tracks and No. 1 on US Tropical Airplay. At the Latin Grammy Awards of 2010, Royce performed a live version of the song along with Ben E. King.[20] Royce's remake received a Lo Nuestro award for "Tropical Song of the Year".[21]
  • Florence + The Machine covered the song for the soundtrack and trailer of Final Fantasy XV in 2016.[22][23] The cover peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot Rock Singles in December 2016.[24]

Ben E. King

For the year-end charts in the US, the song was the #63 song of 1961[28] and #67 of 1987.[29]

See also

  • List of number-one R&B singles of 1961 (U.S.)
  • List of UK Singles Chart number ones
  • List of number-one singles of 1987 (Ireland)
  • List of number-one Billboard Hot Tropical Songs of 2010


  1. ^ Laurence Ourac. "Stand by Me: Digging The Oldies Part 3". Retrieved 2016-10-08.  (The actual reference is Psalms 46:2c rather than all of Psalms 46:2-3.)
  2. ^ "BBC4…The World's Richest Songs". Did You Watch It?. Retrieved January 8, 2016. 
  3. ^ "New Entries to National Recording Registry | News Releases - Library of Congress". Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  4. ^ "Good Rockin' Tonight". (c) 1995 Time-Life Video.
  5. ^ Leiber, Jerry; Stoller, Mike; Ritz, David (2009). Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-4165-5938-2. 
  6. ^ "May 2012". JazzWax. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 325. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century | News". December 13, 1999. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Stand By Me Named Towering Song, Ben E. King Towering Performance, Lance Freed Abe Olman Publisher". SongHall. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  11. ^ Moore, Allan (1995). "The So-Called 'Flattened Seventh' in Rock". Popular Music. Cambridge University Press. 14 (2): 185–201. doi:10.1017/S0261143000007431. 
  12. ^ "Hit Parade del 24 Novembre 1962". Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved May 5, 2016. 
  13. ^ "Late Single Spotlights". Billboard. Vol. 76 no. 10. 7 March 1964. p. 4. Retrieved 11 May 2017. The flip is a legit reading of the Ben E. King hit from a while back. 
  14. ^ Stutz, Colin (4 June 2016). "Muhammad Ali the Grammy-Nominated, Billboard-Charting Musician". Billboard. Retrieved 11 May 2017. 
  15. ^ "Deep Online April 2010". Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  16. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003. 
  17. ^ a b The album Maurice White on AllMusic
  18. ^ Steffen Hung. "4 The Cause - Stand By Me". Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  19. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts". Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  20. ^ "Prince Royce All Set To Touch The Sky". November 12, 2010. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Premio Lo Nuestro 2011 Winners List". February 18, 2011. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  22. ^ Bilstein, Jon (31 March 2016). "Hear Florence and the Machine's Sweeping 'Stand By Me' Cover". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  23. ^ "Florence + The Machine Covers Classic "Stand By Me" for Final Fantasy XV" (Press release). Square Enix. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 
  24. ^ "Chart History: Florence + the Machine". Billboard. 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.  line feed character in |title= at position 30 (help)
  25. ^ a b "Ben E. King awards". AllMusic. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  26. ^ a b "Ben E. King". Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 16, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Ben E. King – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Ben E. King.
  28. ^ "1961". Longbored Surfer. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  29. ^ "1987". Longbored Surfer. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  30. ^ "John Lennon – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for John Lennon.
  31. ^ Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0. 
  32. ^ "Mickey Gilley – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Mickey Gilley.
  33. ^ "Mickey Gilley – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Mickey Gilley.
  34. ^ "Mickey Gilley – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Mickey Gilley.
  35. ^ "Maurice White – Chart history" Billboard Adult Contemporary for Maurice White.
  36. ^ "Maurice White – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for Maurice White.
  37. ^ "4 the Cause – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for 4 the Cause.
  38. ^ Prince Royce Billboard Singes, AllMusic
  39. ^ " – Florence %2B The Machine – Stand By Me" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  40. ^ " – Florence %2B The Machine – Stand By Me" (in French). Ultratip. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  41. ^ "Belgium Digital Songs". Billboard. Retrieved January 19, 2017. 
  42. ^ " – Florence %2B The Machine – Stand By Me" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  43. ^ "Florence + the Machine – Stand By Me Media Forest". Retrieved January 19, 2017. 
  44. ^ "Florence + the Machine – Chart history" Billboard Hot Rock Songs for Florence + the Machine. Retrieved January 19, 2017.

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