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"Stand By Me" is a song originally performed by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King. It was written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, inspired by the spiritual "Lord Stand By Me", plus two lines rooted in Psalms 46:02–03. There have been over 400 recorded versions of the song. The song is featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 film Stand By Me.

In 2015, King's original version was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library Of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


  • 01 Song information
    • 1.1 Structure
  • 02 Notable covers
  • 03 Chart performance
    • 3.1 Ben E. King
    • 3.2 John Lennon
    • 3.3 Mickey Gilley
    • 3.4 Maurice White
    • 3.5 Prince Royce
  • 04 See also
  • 05 References

Song information[edit][]

According to the documentary History Of Rock 'N' Roll, Ben E. King had no intention of recording the song himself when he wrote it.[3] King had written it for The Drifters, who passed on recording it. After the "Spanish Harlem" recording session, he had some studio time left over. The session's producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, asked if he had any more songs. King played "Stand By Me" on the piano for them. They liked it and called the studio musicians back in to record it.

Stoller recalls it differently:

In another interview, Stoller said:

The personnel on the song included Romeo Penque on sax, Ernie Hayes on piano, Al Caiola and Charles McCracken on guitars, Lloyd Trotman on bass, Phil Kraus on percussion, and Gary Chester on drums. Songwriting credits on the single were shown as King and Elmo Glick—a pseudonym used by Leiber and Stoller.

King's record went to No. 1 on the R&B charts[6] and was a Top Ten hit on the U.S. charts twice—in its original release in 1961, when it peaked at No. 4, and a 1986 re-release coinciding with its use as the theme song for the movie of the same name following its appearance in the film, when it peaked at No. 9, and also in an advertisement for Levi Jeans. It also reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in 1987 after its re-release, mostly because of the jeans spot, originally reaching No. 27 on its first release.

The song was not released on an album until it had been out as a single for two years. The song appeared on King's Don't Play That Song! album.

"Stand By Me" was ranked 122nd on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. In 1999, BMI named it as the fourth most-performed song of the 20th century, with about seven million performances.[7]

On March 27, 2012, the Songwriters Hall of Fame announced that "Stand By Me" would receive its 2012 Towering Song Award and that King would be honored with the 2012 Towering Performance Award for his recording of it.[8]


The song uses a version of the common chord progression now called the 50s progression, which has been called the "'Stand By Me' changes"[9] after the song.

Notable covers[edit][]

There have been over 400 recorded versions of "Stand By Me". Some of the more notable ones are:

  • Little Milton recorded a version for We're Gonna Make It (1965), his first album released on Chess Records.
  • Spyder Turner's 1967 version climbed to No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard Black Singles chart and No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.[10]
  • Muhammad Ali (then still named Cassius Clay) recorded the song in 1964.[11]
  • John Lennon recorded his version of the song for his 1975 album Rock 'N' Roll. Lennon's cover was his last hit prior to his five-year retirement from the music industry. This version had a more rock sound than R&B. Lennon filmed a performance of the song for The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975.[12] The B-side of the single was "Move Over Ms. L," a rare and raucous track also covered by The Who drummer Keith Moon.[13]
  • Maurice White. White's remake peaked at number 6, 11 and 50 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, Adult Contemporary and Billboard Hot 100 charts, respectively.[14]
  • Prince Royce recorded a bachata version of the song as his debut single, changing parts of the lyrics into Spanish. This version peaked No. 8 on Hot Latin Tracks and No. 1 on Tropical Airplay. At the Latin Grammy Awards of 2010, Royce performed a live version of the song along with Ben E. King.[15] Royce's cover received a Lo Nuestro award for "Tropical Song Of The Year".[16]
  • A version of the song released by American R&B group 4 The Cause in 1998 was a #1 hit in Switzerland, reached No. 2 of the Austrian and German singles charts and number three in New Zealand, and was a top-ten hit in several other countries.[17][18]
  • Stephen King and Warren Zevon recorded a version for the charity compilation album Stranger Than Fiction.[19]
  • The song was covered in a 1995 Walt Disney Pictures animated short starring Timon And Pumbaa. In it, Timon (Kevin Schon) sang "Stand By Me" accompanied by abasso chorus of frogs (Phillip Ingram), and during the chorus, Pumbaa (Ernie Sabella) would be hit by various slapstick.[20]
  • Ki:Theory's cover was used in a trailer for Brick Mansions.[21]
  • The song "Dildaara" from the movie Ra. One is a Hindi language cover incorporating some of the original English lyrics.

In 1986 and 1988, Hong Kong singer George Lam and Anita Mui covered this song in Cantonese.

Chart performance[edit][]

Ben E. King[edit][]

Chart (1961) Peak


US Billboard Hot R&B Singles[22] 01
US Billboard Hot 100[22] 04
UK Singles Chart[23] 27
Chart (1986) Peak


US Billboard Hot 100 09
Chart (1987) Peak


UK Singles Chart[23] 01
Irish Singles Chart 01
Swiss Music Charts 03
Dutch Top 40 07
Austria Top 40 07
Sweden Singles Chart 08
Norway Singles Chart 09

John Lennon[edit][]

Chart (1975) Peak


Canadian RPM Singles Chart 10
US Billboard Hot 100[24] 20
US Cashbox Top 100[24] 20
UK Singles Chart 30

Mickey Gilley[edit][]

Chart (1980) Peak


U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 01
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 22
U.S. Billboard Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks 03
Canadian RPM Country Chart 03
Canadian RPM Singles Chart 51

Maurice White[edit][]

Chart (1985)[14] Peak


U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs 06
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary 11
U.S. Billboard Billboard Hot 100 50

Prince Royce[edit][]

Chart (2010)[25] Peak


U.S. Billboard Hot Latin Tracks 08
U.S. Billboard Latin Tropical Airplay 01
U.S. Billboard Heatseekers Songs 17