Saturday, May 02, 2015

Legendobit: Ben E King

Earl, as you'll be more than aware by now.

Ben E King has died - in the same month as Percy Sledge, which must be making Babylon Zoo's Jas Mann feel a little nervous right now.

King told WGBH how he wrote Stand By Me - it wasn't a struggle:

[S]omeone asked me, what was you thinking about or what was you feeling about? Songwriters just write songs. It's like an artist that paints. They paint what they feel. It's not about how many of these painting I'll sell; it's just how they feel at the moment. And that's how I wrote "Stand By Me". And the song to me as I was writing it, it was just a song, it just, personal of course with its moments

It's OK 'cause a singer has got a different attitude, they're they're so whacked out they don't know what they're doing half the time. Singers; they're spoiled too. I'm a songwriter. So I'm OK. But when I wrote "Stand By Me" as a song and to know that the song will probably be here for hundred and hundreds of years to come, it's great, you know. And it was just simple lyrics. "When the night has come and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we'll see, no I won't be afraid. No, I won't be afraid just as long as you stand, stand by me. So darling, darling, stand by me, oh stand by me, oh stand, stand by me, stand by me." It's just simple lyrics but enough to, enough to connect. And I didn't realize that when I was was writing it, it was just something that I felt like I wanted to say. And during those times like in my early years as a writer I could actually write a song in ten minutes because all of a sudden a song is writing itself, I'm just putting down words. It just seem each line that you put down flows with the other ones. It's like writing a love letter - you don't think about it, it's something from the heart. You're writing how you feel. And when you're finished you put your signature on it and you mail it off and that's it. And that's how "Stand By Me" was really.
It's worth noting, though, that King's performance of his song was as important as the words in ensuring its longevity - as the Library Of Congress observed:
Stand by Me" is anchored by perhaps the best known bassline in recording history, composed by Stoller and played by Lloyd Trotman. His upright acoustic bass is doubled by an electric guitar played an octave higher. According to Stoller, a Latin-American percussion instrument called a guiro played "... on every second beat and a triangle on every fourth." Legendary engineer Tom Dowd recorded "Stand by Me" at Atlantic Studios in New York City. Stan Applebaum wrote the soaring string arrangement, which includes a two-part invention. All these elements contributed to the song’s success, but it was King’s incandescent vocal that made it a classic.
Ben E King was 67; he died April 30th.