Friday, May 01, 2015

Ben E King RIP

Soul music has lost yet another of its all time greats with the death of Ben E King at the age of 76. Atlantic Records founder Armet Ertegun described him as 'one of the greatest singers in the history of rock and roll and rhythm and blues', and that was no exaggeration. As lead singer of the Drifters his beautiful voice made masterpieces out of a string of hits during 1959 and 1960, including There Goes My Baby, Dance With Me, This Magic Moment, Lonely Winds, Save The Last Dance For Me (the group's biggest ever hit), Nobody But Me and I Count The Tears.
After leaving the Drifters he enjoyed a stellar career as a solo artist. Stand By Me from 1961 was a huge hit not once but twice, when it was the theme of the 1986 movie of the same name. Other excellent records included Spanish Harlem, First Taste Of Love (a great double sider), Amor, Young Boy Blues, Here Comes The Night, Ecstasy, Don't Play That Song, Too Bad, Tell Daddy, How Can I Forget, I (Who Have Nothing), Gypsy, What Now My Love, That's When It Hurts, It's All Over, Around The Corner, Seven Letters, Cry No More, Goodnight My Love, What Is Soul?, Tears Tears Tears and, from 1975, Supernatural Thing. From that list, and others besides, it's impossible to pick a favourite, because they were all superb examples of soul music at its very best.
He continued to record after the hits dried up and to perform until recently and I was lucky enough to see him on several occasions, the most recent being in 2011 when he appeared in Basingstoke alongside another sixties legend Gary US Bonds (see photo). The Drifters produced some great individual singers but, along with Clyde McPhatter, Ben was undoubtedly the greatest. RIP to a true great.
There are a couple of other recent deaths that deserve a mention which I have missed over the last few weeks. Billy Butler, the brother of Jerry, died at the age of 69. He formed the Enchanters and as a solo artist he made a number of first rate soul records, the most famous of which was The Right Track for the Okeh label, which is listed at number 11 in the Northern Soul top 500 singles. He also recorded with the group Infinity and enjoyed success.
Another recent death is that of songwriter Sid Tepper at the age of 96. Together with partner Roy C Bennett he wrote Red Roses For A Blue Lady in 1949 and went on to write dozens of hits for the likes of Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard, including G I Blues, Travellin' Light, When The Girl In Your Arms Is the Girl In Your heart, Comin' Down With Love, Carl Perkins' Glad All Over and The Young Ones.


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