Ben E King, who is best known for singing Stand By Me, died on Thursday 30 April at the age of 76. The R&B legend, who started his career with American soul group The Drifters in the late 1950s, passed away as the result of natural causes, according to his publicist Phil Brown.
Blues singer Gary "U.S." Bonds was one of the first to break the news, writing a heartfelt message on his Facebook page and sending his best wishes to the musician's partner Betty.
"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," he wrote.
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Ben E King's publicist confirmed that the singer died of natural causes on 30 April
"Speaking for myself, my family & 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 Betty and the entire family. Thank you Ben E. for your friendship and the wonderful legacy you leave behind."
Ben E, who was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, North Carolina, is known for tracks including There Goes My Baby and Save The Last Dance For Me, but it is his global hit Stand By Me for which he is best remembered.
The song, which was first released in 1962, enjoyed a three-week spell at number one in the UK and has charted nine times on the US Billboard 100 over the years – including Ben E's own version twice and seven times with covers by artists including John Lennon, Spyder Turner, Mickey Gilley and Prince Royce.
Ben E King said he felt "honoured" to have enjoyed such a long career in music
Reflecting on his 50-year career in an interview with the Liverpool Echo shortly before beginning a tour of the UK in 2013, Ben E said he was "truly humbled and honoured" to have remained popular for so long.
"I'd never have dreamed back in the day that I'd have such an amazing career," he said. "I always felt I never chose music, it chose me. From working in my father's restaurant in New York to this has all been by chance. I'm so lucky - it's all I've ever wanted to do."