Stand By Me – Ben E. King | Top 40 Chart Performance, Story and Song Meaning

Chart Performance: Pop(#4) and R&B(#1 for 4 weeks); 1961

Story Behind The Song By Ed Osborne

In June of 1958, George Treadwell, manager of the Drifters, fired the group’s members backstage at the Apollo Theater, and immediately hired the Five Crowns to replace them. In March, 1959 the new Drifters entered the studio for the first time, and walked out with There Goes My Baby; an R&B/pop crossover smash.

Fourteen months later, lead singer Ben E. King left. In December, 1960, King’s first solo disc, Spanish Harlem, joined the last Drifters hit to feature his voice, I Count The Tears, on the Hot 100. Next up was an original King song already rejected by the Drifters, based on the spiritual Lord Stand By Me.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller polished it off, and created a powerful arrangement highlighted by a modified baion bass riff and a scraped drum bottom. Released as Stand By Me, the secular ode to friendship shot into the Top 10 in June of 1961, and again in December of 1986, after its appearance in the movie of the same name.

This content and all Song Meaning articles were created and written by Top 40 Contributing Editor Ed Osborne. © 2024 Ed Osborne. All Rights Reserved. In addition to these song meaning articles, Ed has written our “Year in Music 1960s-1990s” articles.

Produced by:

  • Jerry Leiber
  • Mike Stoller

Lyrics Written by:

  • Ben E. King
  • Jerry Leiber
  • Mike Stoller


  • Ben E. King was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 as a member of the Drifters and has been nominated as a solo artist
  • “Stand by Me” ranked 122nd on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs.
  • The single made the RIAA’s list of Songs of the Century
  • In 2012, “Stand By Me” received the Towering Song Award and King was honored with the Towering Performance Award.
  • “Stand by Me” won the award for Most Performed Song from a Film at the 1988 MTV Video Music Awards.
  • In 2015, “Stand by Me” became part of the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry