Ben E. King Ben E. King

Ben E. King, the singer best known for the R&B classic "Stand By Me," has died, The Associated Press reports. He was 76.

King's publicist Phil Brown said the singer passed away on Thursday, but did not reveal the cause of death.

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King began his career in The Drifters, singing on the doo-wop group's songs "There Goes My Baby," "This Magic Moment," and "Save the Last Dance for Me." He left to pursue a solo career and landed his first hit, "Spanish Harlem," in 1961. That same year, "Stand By Me" was released and became the defining song of King's career.

According to The Los Angeles Times, in the liner notes of a box set spanning his entire career, King explained the origin of the song, which was originally intended for The Drifters. "Jerry and Mike asked me if I had anything I wanted to do," King said. "I went to the piano and played a little of 'Stand By Me,' which I'd gone over before with Jerry. So, right at the end of the sessions, we cut it . . . I had tears in my eyes when I sang it."