SOUL singer Ben E. King, best known for Stand By Me, has died at the age of 76..
King, who kicked off his music career in the late 1950s as part of The Drifters, died of natural causes on Thursday, his publicist said.
The singer, who was born in North Carolina in September 1938, released his first solo record Spanish Harlem in 1961, following it up with the iconic Stand By Me.
Voted one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), King also tasted success with There Goes My Baby, Save the Last Dance for Me and I (Who Have Nothing).
Fellow musician Gary US Bonds paid tribute on Facebook, saying: “With an extremely heavy heart, I must say goodbye to one of the sweetest, gentlest and gifted souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend for more than 50 years - Mr. Ben E. King.
“Speaking for myself, my family and my Roadhouse Rockers family, I can tell you that Ben E. will be missed more than words can say.
“Our sincere condolences go out to [King’s wife] Betty and the entire family.
“Thank you Ben E. for your friendship and the wonderful legacy you leave behind.”
King was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and in 2012 Stand By Me received the Songwriters Hall of Fame ‘Towering Song’ award, with King picked up the Towering Performance award for his recording.
His signature hit made the top 10 on its re-release in 1986, when it featured in the film of the same name, and reached number one in the UK the following year.