Benjamin Earl Nelson, 28 September 1938, Henderson, North Carolina, USA. King began his career while still a high-school student singing in a doo-wop group, the Four Bs. He later joined the Five Crowns who, in 1959, assumed the name the Drifters. King was the featured lead vocalist and occasional composer on several of their recordings including There Goes My Baby and Save The Last Dance For Me (written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman). After leaving the group in 1960, he recorded the classic single Spanish Harlem (1961), which maintained the Latin quality of the Drifters work and deservedly reached the US Top 10. The follow-up, Stand By Me (1961), was even more successful and was followed by further hits including Amor (1961) and Dont Play That Song (1962). Throughout this period, Kings work was aimed increasingly at the pop audience. I (Who Have Nothing) and I Could Have Danced All Night (both 1963) suggested showbusiness rather than innovation, although Bert Berns Its All Over (1964) was a superb song. Seven Letters and The Record (Baby I Love You) (both 1965) prepared the way for the rhetorical What Is Soul? (1967), which effectively placed King alongside such soul contemporaries as Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Joe Tex.
Unfortunately, Kings commercial standing declined towards the end of the 60s when he left the Atlantic Records group of labels. Unable to reclaim his former standing elsewhere, King later re-signed with his former company and secured a US Top 5 hit in 1975 with Supernatural Thing Part 1. In 1977, a collaboration with the Average White Band resulted in two R&B chart entries and an excellent album, Benny And Us. Kings later recordings, including Music Trance (1980) and Street Tough (1981), proved less successful, and he briefly joined up with Johnny Moore in a version of the Drifters still plying their trade on the cabaret circuit. In 1986, Stand By Me was included in the movie of the same name, reaching the US Top 10 and number 1 in the UK, thereby briefly revitalizing the singers autumnal career.
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.