Ben E King, the soul and R&B singer best known for the classic song Stand By Me, has died aged 76.
His publicist confirmed to The Telegraph that he died of natural causes on Thursday.
The singer, loved around the world for the 1961 hit, rose to fame in the late 1950 with The Drifters, with songs including There Goes My Baby and Save The Last Dance For Me.
The R&B singer went on to further success with Spanish Harlem, I (Who Have Nothing), and Don’t Play That Song (You Lied).
King had not been publicly reported to have been suffering illness in recent years, and completed a tour in the UK in 2013. He also played concerts in the US last year.
In an interview in 2013, he spoke of his fans’ adoration for Stand By Me and pledged to perform it for the rest of his life to please crowds.
“I’m so proud it has stood the test of time,” he said.
Ben E King was loved around the world for his 1961 hit Stand By Me (Getty)
Writing on Facebook after he heard the news, musician Gary US Bonds said:
In an interview with the Liverpool Echo, when he arrived in the UK for his 2013 tour, Ben E King said of his 50-year career: “I’m truly humbled and honoured.
“I’d never have dreamed back in the day that I’d have such an amazing career. I always felt I never chose music, it chose me. From working in my father’s restaurant in New York to this has all been by chance. I’m so lucky – it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson in North Carolina, he grew up in Harlem, New York and began his singing career in doo wop group the Five Crowns.
He went on to sing for The Drifters, leaving in 1960 over a contract and pay dispute.
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After going solo, he took the stage name Ben E King.
In 2011, he told the BBC how The Drifters originally turned down the opportunity to record Stand By Me, after their manager proclaimed it “not a bad song, but we don’t need it”.