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A Classic Song Gave Rise to Stand by Me‘s Title


Stand by Me originated as a Stephen King novella called “The Body,” and that was also the ‘working title’ under which it was filmed. In fact, director Rob Reiner didn’t rename his movie until just before its release. The title Stand by Me came from the song of the same name, which plays over the closing credits. Reiner recalled, “We had decided on the music ‘Stand by Me’ before we came up with the title. This music was always intended to be in the film, and then the title came from that.”

The song “Stand by Me” was written by Ben E. King in 1959 and
arranged by producer/songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Leiber
and Stoller are also known for writing such hits as “Jailhouse Rock,”
“Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” “Love Potion No. 9” and “Leader of the

King had planned to give the song to the original
Drifters, but that group disbanded in 1959. Instead, King, who was part
of the doo-wop group the Five Crowns, which became the new Drifters,
took his song to Leiber and Stoller, who rearranged it. In 1960, after
failing to get a salary increase, King left the new Drifters and went
solo, recording “Stand by Me” only because there was some studio time
left over after a recording session for his single “Spanish Harlem.”

prompted me to write it was a spiritual called ‘Lord, Stand by Me,’
said King. “I was raised on gospel music, and those were my roots… I
was also newly married and I thought that enhanced the song. I had a
feeling of love in my heart and romance in my soul. It didn’t take but
a couple of days to complete the whole song. But I never thought ‘Stand
by Me’ would live to have the recognition it is having.”

by Me” established Ben E. King as a prominent soul singer of the early
’60s. In its first release in 1961, the song peaked at #4 on the US
charts, and was later covered by John Lennon, Muhammad Ali, Otis
Redding and countless others. Twenty-five years later, the film Stand by Me reintroduced the original song to the Top 10. “It’s wonderful,” said Mike Stoller. “It’s like a whole new career for Ben.”

just shows a good song can last forever,” said Ben E. King. “I keep
telling my wife ‘Stand by Me’ pays for all the doughnuts whenever we
drink our coffee.”

Watch the DVD-enhanced version of Stand by Me on June 8. For a complete schedule of this movie on AMC, click here.

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To read How a Son’s Insecurites Enhanced Stand by Me, click here.

Craig Modderno, “‘Stand by Me’ Gets a New Life,” Chicago Sun-Times, 9/28/86
Richard De Atley, “Rock History Stands by Hitmakers Leiber, Stoller,” Chicago Sun-Times, 1/2/87
Dave Hoekstra, “‘Stand by Me’ Still Is Special to Ben E. King,” Chicago Sun-Times 11/10/89
Stand by Me DVD: Director Commentary

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