Stand By Me | Playing For Change | Song Around The World05:28

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Published on September 11, 2016

Stand by Me (song)

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This article is about the song originally recorded by Ben E. King. For other uses, see Stand by Me (disambiguation).
“Stand by Me”
Single by Ben E. King
from the album Don’t Play That Song!
B-side “On the Horizon”
Released 1961
Format 7″ single, 12″ single
Recorded October 27, 1960
Genre Soul, rhythm and blues
Length 2:57
Label Atco
Writer(s) Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Ben E. King singles chronology
“First Taste of Love”
Stand by Me
“Stand by Me”
Single by John Lennon
from the album Rock ‘n’ Roll
B-side “Move Over Ms. L”
Released March 10, 1975
Format 7″ vinyl
Recorded 1974
Genre Rock
Length 3:26
Label Apple
Writer(s) Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) John Lennon
John Lennon singles chronology
#9 Dream
Stand by Me
(Just Like) Starting Over” (1980)
“Stand by Me”
Single by Mickey Gilley
from the album Urban Cowboy
B-side Here Comes the Hurt Again
Released May 31, 1980
Format 7″
Recorded 1980
Genre Country
Length 3:35
Label Epic
Writer(s) Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Jim Ed Norman
Mickey Gilley singles chronology
True Love Ways
Stand by Me
That’s All That Matters
“Stand by Me”
Single by Maurice White
from the album Maurice White
Released 1985
Format 7″, 12″
Genre Rhythm and blues, soul
Length 4:07
Label Columbia
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
Released September 18, 1998
Format CD
Recorded 1997
Genre Soul, Hip hop music
Length 3:44
Label RCA
Writer(s) Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Michael Vitoria, Funky Be
4 the Cause singles chronology
Stand by Me
“Let Me Be”
“Stand by Me”
Single by Prince Royce
from the album Prince Royce
Released 2010
Recorded 2009
Genre Bachata
Length 3:25
Label Top Stop Music
Writer(s) Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Sergio George
Prince Royce singles chronology
Stand by Me
Corazón Sin Cara

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. 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.

In 2012 it was estimated that the songs royalties had topped £17 million, making it the sixth highest earning song as of that time. 50% of the royalties were paid to King.[1]

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”,[2] 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.

Song information[edit]

According to the documentary History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Ben E. King had no intention of recording the song himself.[3] 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 … .[4]

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.[5]

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[6] and was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. charts twice—in its original release in 1961, when it peaked at No. 4, 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.[7]

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.[8]


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.[9]

Notable remakes[edit]

Chart performance[edit]

Ben E. King[edit]

Chart (1961) Peak
US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[21] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[21] 4
UK Singles Chart[22] 27
Chart (1986) Peak
US Billboard Hot 100 9

For the year-end charts in the US, the song was the #63 song of 1961[23] and #67 of 1987.[24]

Chart (1987) Peak
UK Singles Chart[22] 1
Irish Singles Chart 1
German Top 75 2
Swiss Music Charts 3
Dutch Top 40 7
Austria Top 40 7
Sweden Singles Chart 8
Norway Singles Chart 9

John Lennon[edit]

Chart (1975) Peak
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 10
US Billboard Hot 100[25] 20
US Cashbox Top 100[25] 20
UK Singles Chart 30
German Singles Chart 22

Mickey Gilley[edit]

Chart (1980) Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 22
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 3
Canadian RPM Country Chart 3
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 51

Maurice White[edit]

Chart (1985)[14] Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 6
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 11
U.S. Billboard Billboard Hot 100 50

4 the Cause[edit]

Chart (1998) Peak
U.S. Billboard Billboard Hot 100 82
UK Single Charts 12
German Single Charts 2
Austrian Single Charts 2
Swiss Single Charts 1

Prince Royce[edit]

Chart (2010)[26] Peak
U.S. Billboard Hot Latin Tracks 8
U.S. Billboard Latin Tropical Airplay 1
U.S. Billboard Heatseekers Songs 17

U.S. went to 102 on the charts with Cassius Clay

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up^ “BBC4…The World’s Richest Songs”. Did You Watch It?. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  2. Jump up^
  3. Jump up^ “Good Rockin’ Tonight”. (c) 1995 Time-Life Video.
  4. Jump up^ Leiber, Jerry; Stoller, Mike; Ritz, David (2009). Hound Dog: The Leiber & Stoller Autobiography. Simon & Schuster. p. 174.ISBN 978-1-4165-5938-2.
  5. Jump up^ Marc Myers, “Interview: Mike Stoller (Part 3)”, JazzWax, May 31, 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2014
  6. Jump up^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–2004. Record Research. p. 325.
  7. Jump up^ | News | BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century
  8. Jump up^ Stand By Me Named Towering Song, Ben E. King Towering Performance, March 27, 2012. Accessed April 26, 2012.
  9. Jump up^ Moore, Allan (1995). “The So-Called ‘Flattened Seventh’ in Rock”.Popular Music. Cambridge University Press. 14 (2): 185–201.doi:10.1017/S0261143000007431.
  10. Jump up^ “Hit Parade del 24 Novembre 1962”. Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved5 May 2016.
  11. Jump up^ An interview with Spyder Turner in 2010 at Soul Express
  12. Jump up^ The Old Grey Whistle Test (DVD). Warner Home Video. 2003.
  13. Jump up^ Blaney, John (2005). “1973 to 1975: The Lost Weekend Starts Here”. John Lennon: Listen to This Book (illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
  14. ^ Jump up to:a b The album Maurice White on
  15. Jump up^ 4 The Cause – Stand By Me (Song) at
  16. Jump up^ Chartverfolgung 4 The Cause: Stand By Me (Single) at (German)
  17. Jump up^ Prince Royce All Set To Touch The Sky
  18. Jump up^ Premio Lo Nuestro 2011 Winners List
  19. Jump up^ “Stand By Me”. Melbourne Victory. Retrieved 8 May 2015.
  20. Jump up^
  21. ^ Jump up to:a b “Ben E. King awards on Allmusic”. Allmusic. RetrievedJune 16, 2013.
  22. ^ Jump up to:a b “Ben E. King”. Official Charts Company. Retrieved June 16,2013.
  23. Jump up^
  24. Jump up^
  25. ^ Jump up to:a b Blaney, John (2005). John Lennon: Listen to This Book(illustrated ed.). [S.l.]: Paper Jukebox. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-9544528-1-0.
  26. Jump up^ Prince Royce Billboard Singes
Preceded by
Dancin’ Cowboys
by The Bellamy Brothers
Billboard Hot Country Singles
number-one single (Mickey Gilley version)

August 9, 1980
Succeeded by
Tennessee River
by Alabama
Preceded by
I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)
by Aretha Franklin and George Michael
UK number one single
Ben E. King version

February 21, 1987
(for three weeks)
Succeeded by
Everything I Own
by Boy George

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