Stand By Me

It’s sad to say goodbye to Ben E. King, who died Thursday at the age of 76.

King, whose name at birth was really Benjamin Earl Nelson, made the song Stand By Me famous.

When I read that Stand By Me was a concept King had tucked away, almost forgotten until King was casually questioned by Leiber and Stoller at the end of a writing session about any other song ideas he might have, it’s a reminder of the lasting importance of small moments and that  “hits” often (always?) happen  for reasons that are beyond our control.

The story goes that Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler harbored a grudge against Stand By Me because hiring the orchestra turned out to be overly expensive.

Odd thought, given the enduring success of that original recording. We too often obsess over the momentary cost without considering the possible long-term payoff. Although it is weird to see King lip synching it here in a room that contains many more dancing-challenged white teenagers than orchestral string players.

The New York Times obituary included this King quote: “I still think my whole career was accidental. I didn’t pursue it. I feel like I’m cheating sometimes.”

But there’s no doubt King had true talent and a legitimate, lasting effect. Back in 2008 this tremendously impressive global rendition of Stand By Me was pieced together by the organization Playing for Change.

All of this came about because a guy with the unusual name of Lover Patterson was persistent about finding talent  in Harlem and kept returning to the luncheonette run by Ben E. King’s father, asking if there were any young guys around who could sing.

Turns out there was at least one.

Can you sing? 

 

47 thoughts on “Stand By Me”

  1. Absolutely! “Officer, I saw the guy parking in the handicap zone and he looks a lot like the fella you’ve got handcuffed over there; that Dale Connelly. I also saw him touching the wet paint and those are his initials in the wet cement.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Well, today I am a non- singer due to a nasty case of laryngitis. I have an alto voice with no vibrato but I have a good ear and I sing in tune. I am an ensemble singer and not a soloist. Daughter has a lovely alto voice with vibrato. Son is a second bass. DIL is a first alto and a lovely singer and soloist.

    Daughter’ s best friend will sing the role of Titania in the NDSU production of Benjamin Britton’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream next week. That young woman has a beautiful voice. She is auditioning for a summer production of Der Fledermaus at UND.

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  3. I used to sing a lot when I was younger, these days not so much. In the car, on road trips, husband and I sing together but it’s probably a lot more fun than it’s beautiful.

    OT – Just learned this morning that B.B. King is in hospice care in his home in Las Vegas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. he sent out the vibes last week. i was thinking about him. i had seen he was poor buy hospice is the towel. thank you b.b.b lucile made us smile and cry

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  4. I wonder how different this music is for me. Unlike almost all baboons, I was a teenager when this music first appeared. I imagine the rest of you encountered it as moldy oldie stuff. I encountered “Stand by Me” and other great songs of the time on my AM radio. In winter when I was in high school we’d have a Friday evening basketball game followed by a “sock hop.” They would close the gym, letting kids mill around outside for twenty minutes while the janitors folded up the bleachers and mopped the floor. When we came back in we had to shuck our shoes so we wouldn’t scuff the precious court’s varnished boards. We danced in sock feet, hence the name. It would be all dark in the gym with a few colored lights here and there and a big mirror ball slowly spinning in the center of the court.

    Girls would cluster on the east side of the gym while guys stood awkwardly on the west side. Of course, kids who were “going together” would be dancing in the middle. Those of us not in a steady relationship had to muster the courage to cross that huge floor with sweaty palms to ask a girl to dance. Teachers (who in those pre-union days would not be paid for this duty) would stand around the perimeter of the floor to make sure romantic couples didn’t let their hands slide into forbidden territory as they clutched each other while shuffling around during slow dancing songs.

    The music came from a record player connected to a crude sound system, the music itself being stacks of glossy black 45 rpm disks that were owned by the kids. In the late 1950s a lot of my favorite songs were Doo Wop tunes that we sometimes discovered on TV shows like “American Bandstand.” I love that music still: “The Great Pretender,” “You Send Me,” “Your Precious Love,” “Donna,” “At the Hop,” “Gonna Find Her,” “Love Me Tender,” “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “There Goes My Baby,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Blue Moon,” “Stand By Me.”

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      1. From Steve’s selection, only “At the Hop” is not a slow dance, so I’m guessing he wasn’t into the more vigorous dances. 🙂 Am I right, Steve?

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      1. the platters the drifters the miracles the supremes the chifons the mills brothers before them what a wonderful legacy. sam cooke ben e king lionel ritchie smokey robinson dianah ross aretha ella . my son the singer sang black when he was 8 and i wondered what the heck he was doing. he picked sam cooke at age 8. kid had an ear. now theres a guy who can sing. i get mad that he is in a world where he needs to work so hard to go forward that he is too exhausted to live when hes done.

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    1. Wondering if they still hold sock hops in junior and senior high schools. You described them to a T, Steve, except my sock hops came about ten years after yours, judging by your playlist

      Chris in Owatonna

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  5. I just listened to Stand By Me played by Playing For Change. Man, is that ever inspiring! Thanks for posting this. Greg

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    1. yes what a wonderful version. welcome greg. the trail is always open to new folks. especially if the have the correct musical taste. and we let steve in too

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  6. Good morning. I like to sing. However, I seem to have trouble following a melody. I love music and I am attracted to good melodies. However, when I try to sing a melody I usually end up not getting the “beat” right. It is as if I have an odd form of dyslexia that causes me emphasize the “off beat” instead of staying on the “beat”. Also, I think I have a little trouble getting the “pitch” right.

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  7. I didn’t answer the question about singing, although I’ve made the point emphatically in previous posts that when I sing squirrels flee the trees, fish leap out of the water and the EPA sends emergency teams to clean up the mess. I’ve read that math and music have a lot in common. It must be true, as I am fatally flawed with both. If I remember a number, the only sure thing is that the *real* number is not the one I mention. When I sing a note, the *real* note is somewhere above or below the noise coming out of me. When I sing, birds drop stone dead from the skies, and the sun comes up in the West.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Steve, were I to sing today with my laryngitis, i would sound like Mavis Staples trying to sing opera at the bottom of a swimming pool.

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    2. Math and music do have some things in common – Darling Daughter is pretty good at both, and I’d hazard a guess at least part of it is her innate ability to fine and recognize patterns and potential patterns. Now, while she is a good pianist and beginner clarinetist, she cannot sing. She can hear when a note is wrong on her instruments, but not when the instrument is her voice. It’s perplexing.

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  8. i can sing . i love to sing. i wish sometimes i had followed my soul instead of listening to well intentioned realists when i was at an impressionable age. i wanted to be a rock star and callen the boys back form the 4 corners of america to be the boys int he band an start a lounge act that was going tho be a scotch and soda, frank sinatra tony bennett kind of bar act with james taylor cat stevens bob dylan and john denver kind of stuff on the contemporary side. i love singing the songs and always got frustrated in rock and roll at having to sing over the top of the amps and drums with poor pa system and no monitors. i saw the singers on the voice or some similar show last night and the singers in the show all had those little earpieces in as they sang and i commented how much i wanted those to the folks i was ther with. why what difference does that make. i trely coundtn hear when i was singong and when the guitar is cranked and his idea of tuning is only ball park and his solo is off to the races whil i am trying to sing its hard to pull it off and feel good about it.
    i recently joined a local jam group and love love love getting back into it. a couple of the guys get it and let me do it my way. i had one guy tell me ia ma singing it wrong and i should change to make it fit his idea of how the song should go. his comment was you know like therecord… i sang again with the amps and it was terrible with guys who crank everything all the way up and it is impossible to sing over the top of them. stand by me is on the agenda for the next session and i am looking forward to it. i will look over the other songs listed by the oldsters here on the trail but finding songs i love to sing is not generally an issue. i can dig around for a while and enjoy old beatels kris kristofferson harry nillsen randy newman as well as james taylor paul simon lenord cohen joni mitchel elvis willie deano and a slew of others. hallaleuha is the lates new song ive added to the rrep. nice song. lenords not dead yet and i love his new stuff as much as hs old stuff. look up his ted talk it is great.
    can i sing. yeah and its a crime i dont do it all the time . it feels like lifes nectur flows through my veins when i do. maybe i can figure outr a way to do it more.
    http://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/b/ben_e_king/stand_by_me_crd.htm

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember sitting in a bar with a friend years ago when the band’s lead singer was belting out a Janis Joplin tune, and doing a pretty good job of it. At the end of the song my friend turned to me and said, “If Jesus loved me, I’d be able to sing like that.” That’s pretty much the way I feel, too. I have the sensibilities of a singer or musician but none of the talent or ability. Life isn’t fair.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. In my mind I could be in a 60s girl group. In reality, I should keep my singing to large groups where no one can really hear me. I used to sing in choirs, but lack of practice (and admitting that while I can carry a tune, I can’t go much beyond that) means that most of my singing is left to either occasions where I can blend neatly into the background or where no one can hear me.

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  11. Day three with no voice here. It is worse today than yesterday. This is really annoying. Unless the laryngitis lifts today I won’t be able to go to work tomorrow.

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  12. Daughter has decided to return to her violin and not audition for choir next year. Her focus has changed and she said that the only reason she would keep on singing at Concordia was to prove she could do it. That isn’t reason enough for her to continue. I am somewhat grieved, but I understand. She has a lot of work to do to get her violin playing up to snuff, and even if she isn’t in the orchestra I am glad she has such an attachment to her violin.

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    1. Since I can’t play anything, I can only guess what it is like to have skills on different instruments or with voice. I’d guess there is an intense relationship with any instrument, a complicated relationship with mixed emotions. You are probably wise to let her follow her own heart on such a decision.

      One of the most interesting men I ever knew was good enough on the clarinet that he could have made a living playing professionally. But he hit a wall. He could only get better by playing several hours a day, and his life was too busy for that. So he switched instruments. That way he could enjoy learning his new instrument and make progress even though he couldn’t practice six hours a day.

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      1. Thanks! Now if she would also decide that she loved her French Horn as much as her violin, I would be really happy.

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  13. I love to sing, never took a singing lesson or sang in a choir. My one public performance was doing karaoke of American Pie by Don McLean at the Lynfred Winery Tax Day celebration (we at beans and soup out of tin plates, bowls and utensils and drank wine in the winery…You had to be there… great fun.)

    Unfortunately, the version of American Pie was the LONG version … for which I was NOT prepared! I hung in there, but couldn’t wait to be done because up to that point, and since then, I have NEVER sung for seven-plus minutes without a break!

    I think I did okay, and I’m sure I wasn’t the worst karaoke-er that night because the guy who got drunk on Cab Sauv did one of the worst Elvis impersonations I’ve ever heard. It was so horrible it was hilarious.

    I sing my ass off to my Sam Robson playlist in my office at least once or twice a week. I love complex harmonies that resolve into powerful tonic chord finales, of which Robson is a master. I get the same thrill of energy and adrenaline singing as I did when I played in instrumental ensembles that played a piece to near perfection. One of the great simple highs to be gotten in life.

    I’m a bass by luck of the draw, but often wish I could sing a high, clear tenor or crystalline falsetto. Probably because I was a trumpet player and always loved hitting the high note on top of the band. (Even though I sucked at the high range–stupid embouchure! Obviously I wasn’t built to play trumpet, but I wouldn’t be denied. :-))

    Chris in Owatonna

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    1. i will look up sam robson thanks for the clue.
      the best trumpet player i know is a guy you would never guess walking down the street was a trumpet player. palays with doc severenson when doc does a tour. my daughter studied with him til she dumped it

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  14. A few years ago, I took a singing class at MacPhail. The instructor said that I’d be wasting my time by taking their introductory course and recommended a semester of one-on-one tutoring. My goal was to get as much out of my voice as I could for my voiceover work. At about the third class, my instructor said, “I don’t know the first thing about voiceover work. But I know singing. And you should be singing professionally.” ~sigh~ Another artistic endeavor I should be doing for a living…throw it on the pile… That makes writing, voiceover, photography, acting, comedy, and singing. I wish one or a few of them paid my mortgage on a regular basis…

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    1. i have a friend whose wife teaches the alexander techniqe for voice stuff. supposed to be a big deal for professional voiceless. you may want to check it out. if you need contact info let me know

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