A classic rhythm and blues
song, performed by Ben E. King
and written by King, Jerry Lieber
and Mike Stoller
. Stand By Me hit #4 on Billboard
's Hot 100
in 1961, and charted again in 1986, peaking at #9 when it was re-released as the theme song
from Rob Reiner
's movie. Stand By Me was inspired by the Soul Stirrers
' Stand by Me My Father (1959).
King originally wrote Stand By Me for The Drifters; The Drifters rehearsed the song, but Drifters manager George Treadwell rejected it as the group did not need new songs at the time. King split from the Drifters in 1960 and signed with Atlantic/Atco. Stand By Me was recorded in an October 1960 session with Lieber and Stoller that also produced the classic Spanish Harlem. King recalls the end of the session:
Jerry and Mike asked me if I had anything else I wanted to do. I went to the piano and played a little of “Stand By Me,” which I’d gone over before with Jerry. So right at the end of the session, we cut it... I had tears in my eyes when I sang it.”
According to Lieber, King came into the session with “four or six bars of lyrics.” The scratch percussion was made by the wiry underside of an upside-down snare drum
. The bass line was added by Stoller, who arrived halfway through the session. King later claimed that the sadness in his voice came from not being able to perform the song with the Drifters.
Stand By Me has been covered by artists as diverse as Willie Nelson, Marc Bolan, Scott Walker and Cassius Clay . A record eight different versions of the song have charted on the Hot 100: