The late American singer and songwriter Benjamin Earl King was a giant in the R&B and Soul music space. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 76, but his music will last for generations to come. Ben E. King’s 1961 single “Stand by Me” is a song that has stood the test of time and still elicits the same emotions of love it did 60 years ago. In this article, we pay homage to “Stand by Me” and dig into the inspiration and meaning of the song.
“Stand by Me” was released as a single from Ben E. King’s third studio album “Don’t Play That Song!” (1962). It is King’s most popular song to date. The song reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart, No. 9 on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and broke the top 10 in several other countries. The song’s estimated sales are around 3 million copies worldwide.
One of her biggest accolades is being inducted into Rolling Stone magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list at # 122.
However, his greatest achievement is to be listed in the National Recordings Register by the Library of Congress, as “Cultural, historical or aesthetic significance”, just under five weeks before the death of Ben E. King.
Inspiration behind “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
According to King, the title is derived from, and was inspired by, a spiritual song written by Sam Cooke and JW Alexander called “Stand by Me Father”. However, the song’s true inspiration is said to have come from King’s love for his true partner, Betty Nelson. In addition, the third line of the second verse of the original song derives from “Psalm 46”.
Ben E. King wrote the song, with backing from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, which will be recorded by The Drifters, of which King was the lead vocalist. However, The Drifter’s management refused to take it over and King ended up recording it for himself.
Listen to “Stand by Me” by Ben E. King
Meaning of “Stand by Me” lyrics and review of the song
The rhythm of the intro has become as iconic as the song itself.
When the night has come
And the earth is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
These iconic opening lines set the mood and theme of the song. As King paints a scene of nature engulfed in the darkness of night, it also has a translation in their lives. King is probably talking about a dark time in his life and there is very little “light” or hope around him.
But he’s not worried. He is not afraid to face the darkness or the grim future, as long as he has his partner by his side.
The singer invites his partner to stand by his side through thick and thin. Standing by her side may seem like a small gesture, but it has a long lasting context. The invitation is to support him for life.
So darling, darling, stay by my side
Oh stay close to me
In a world full of changes, inconsistencies and betrayals, it’s good to know that there is at least one person you can blindly rely on.
Ben E. King paints an almost apocalyptic scenario: the sky collapses and the mountains throw themselves into the sea. Even in the face of such catastrophes, the singer is fearless since he has the person he wants by his side.
These words are also a reference to the book of Psalms in the Bible, especially chapter 46, verse 2, which reads; “Therefore we will not be afraid, although the earth is taken up, and the mountains are carried up into the midst of the sea.”
At the very end of the song, Ben E. King tweaks the lyrics slightly to make it the perfect love song. Throughout the song, until now, he has been asking his partner to stand by his side for support. In the last words he adds a line “Whenever you are in trouble, won’t you support me?” “ It flips the song over its head. With this line, King tells his wife that whenever she needs support, he will be there for her as well.
The song is a sweet tribute to the singer’s life partner. Just being there for each other through thick and thin is really the key to a successful life.
Let us know what you think of this song in the comments below. What memories do you keep of this song?
Check out the song’s full lyrics on Genius.
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