"Stand by Me" is a song originally performed by Ben E. King and written by King, Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller, inspired by the spiritual "Lord Stand by Me,"[1] plus two lines rooted in Psalms 46:2–3. There have been over 400 recorded versions of the song. The song is featured in the movie Stand By Me and also is featured on the soundtrack for the movie.

Song information[edit source | editbeta]Edit

According to the documentary History of Rock 'n' Roll, Ben E. King had no intention of recording the song himself when he wrote it.[2] 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...[3]

The fact that arranger Stan Applebaum could not possibly have dashed off an entire string chart at the end of a session, much less copied and distributed all the parts, supports this less dramatic version of the events. The personnel on the song included Romeo Penque on sax, Ernie Hayes on piano, Al Caiola and Charles McCracken on guitars, Lloyd Trotman on bass, Phil Kraus on percussion, and Gary Chester on drums.

Either way, King's record went to #1 on the R&B charts[4] and was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. charts twice—in its original release in 1961, when it peaked at #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 #9, and also in an advertisement for Levi Jeans. It also reached #1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1987 after its re-release, mostly because of the jeans spot, originally reaching #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.[5]

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.[6]

Structure[edit source | editbeta]Edit

The song uses a version of the common chord progression now called the 50s progression, which has been called the "'Stand by Me' changes"[7] after the song.

Notable covers, remixes and samples[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Led Zeppelin performed this song multiple times in concert, as documented in bootlegs.There have been over 400 recorded versions of "Stand by Me". Some of the more notable ones are:

Chart performance[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Ben E. King[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1961) Peak


US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[22] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[22] 4
UK Singles Chart[23] 27
Chart (1986) Peak


US Billboard Hot 100 9
Chart (1987) Peak


UK Singles Chart 1
Swiss Music Charts 3
Dutch Top 40 7
Austria Top 40 7
Sweden Singles Chart 8
Norway Singles Chart 9

John Lennon[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1975) Peak


Canadian RPM Singles Chart 10
US Billboard Hot 100[24] 20
US Cashbox Top 100[24] 20
UK Singles Chart 30

Mickey Gilley[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1980) Peak


U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. BillboardHot 100 22
U.S. BillboardHot Adult Contemporary Tracks 3
Canadian RPM Country Chart 3
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 51

Maurice White[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (1985)[16] Peak


U.S. BillboardHot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 6
U.S. BillboardAdult Contemporary 11
U.S. BillboardBillboard Hot 100 50

Prince Royce[edit source | editbeta]Edit

Chart (2010)[25] Peak


U.S. BillboardHot Latin Tracks 8
U.S. BillboardLatin Tropical Airplay 1
U.S. BillboardHeatseekers Songs 17