The Telegraph reports he died of natural causes on Thursday. King hadn’t be publicly reported to be battling illness and was playing shows as recently as last year.
King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in 1938 in North Carolina and grew up in Harlem. He originally sang for The Drifters, scoring numerous Top 10 hits such as “This Magic Moment” but left that band in 1960 over a contract dispute, changed his name to the more marketable Ben E. King and went on to have more than 20 hits chart on the Billboard Top 100 as a solo artist, including “Spanish Harlem,” co-written by Phil Spector, and “Stand By Me,” which King co-composed and was been named one of the RIAA’s top 25 songs of the century.
King is survived by his wife, Betty, three children and six grandchildren. Below is a selection of King’s hits: