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20 Best Covers of Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by Me’

Hear classic, astounding and unusual interpretations by artists like John Lennon, Tina Turner and Miley Cyrus

Ben E. King

Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" has been covered by artists like John Lennon and Miley Cyrus.

PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Ben E. King scored lasting hits with records like "Spanish Harlem" and the Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk," but the recently-deceased New York native will always be best known for "Stand by Me," a Psalm-inspired ballad co-written with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Fifty-five years after its release, the song has become a modern standard, reinterpreted countless times across genre, era and culture. From Otis Redding and Muhammad Ali's early attempts to Stephen King and Miley Cyrus' later revisions, here are 20 interpretations worth standing by.

Stephen King

Stephen King, US-amerikanischer Schriftsteller, Deutschland, Hamburg, 20.11.2013 Sternsyn bis 01.04.2015

Franz Bischof/laif/Redux

Stephen King

In 1998, Don't Quit Your Day Job Records released a covers compilation recorded by a collection of writers and rock critics. Alongside Ben Fong-Torres' parody of "Rainy Day Women" (titled "Rainy Day Bookstores") and Maya Angelou's "Right, Said Fred," Stephen King does "Stand by Me" Lou Reed-style, adding some spoken word over Warren Zevon keys. 

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 3: Ben E. King performs onstage during Murray The K's Big Holiday Show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater on August 3, 1963 in New York City, New York. (Photo by PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Sean Kingston, “Beautiful Girls”

Will someone please stand by Sean Kingston? On "Beautiful Girls," the then 17-year-old used Ben E. King's riddim to express his high school self-pity, warning a possible girlfriend that her good looks will make him want to kill himself if they break-up. Teenage angst paid off well, though: The song went to Number One on three continents.

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 3: Ben E. King performs onstage during Murray The K's Big Holiday Show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater on August 3, 1963 in New York City, New York. (Photo by PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Lemmy Kilmister

Skate videos have exposed generations of flanneled teens to mind-blowing music that would have otherwise passed them by – classic punk, rap and even the Moody Blues. So it's funny to imagine how many young slackers first heard "Stand by Me" when Lemmy Kilmister (with Slayer's Dave Lombardo on drums) covered it for the soundtrack to Flip's Extremely Sorry. The Motörhead singer's cracked voice does the song justice – and apparently goes well with kickflips.

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 3: Ben E. King performs onstage during Murray The K's Big Holiday Show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater on August 3, 1963 in New York City, New York. (Photo by PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Ronnie Milsap

Most singers direct "Stand by Me" to a friend or a lover. Not Ronnie Milsap. When the self-identified Stand by My Woman Man covered the song in 2009, he sang for Jesus – a reasonable interpretation considering the song's themes of faith and love. Milsap's version rolls easy, carrying light reggae accents in the rhythm and slathering on a shimmering electric piano that recalls his early-Eighties crossover hits. But it's the casual delivery that sells the performance: Ronnie doesn't push the religious overtones, so they feel sincere.

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 3: Ben E. King performs onstage during Murray The K's Big Holiday Show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater on August 3, 1963 in New York City, New York. (Photo by PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Prince Royce

Baby-faced New York bachatero Prince Royce scored his first hit with a swooning, bi-lingual take on King's classic. "I wanted to do it in bachata because we've seen covers by John Lennon, Lady Gaga, Usher, but I'd never heard the song in Spanish with that tropical feeling," he explained. A few Number Ones later, he would sing it in arenas across the country when he opened for Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias. After Royce left the tour, Iglesias began covering the song himself, and upon reaching the final chorus, he would be curl up in a ball at the front of the stage.

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 3: Ben E. King performs onstage during Murray The K's Big Holiday Show at the Brooklyn Fox Theater on August 3, 1963 in New York City, New York. (Photo by PoPsie Randolph/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Miley Cyrus feat. Future, “My Darlin'”

Pharrell, Dr. Luke and Mike Will Made-It get top billing, but a little further down, the Bangerz writing credits include the names Leiber, Stoller and King. Their unlikely contribution comes when the former Disney star cuts lyrics from "Stand by Me" into the chorus of "My Darlin'," she and the perpetually Auto-Tuned Future rhyming the older song's title with a promise to make a movie in the 3D. A molly-popping Trinidad James reference dates the track as quintessentially 2013, but Ben E.'s 1961 soul classic remains the source of its tenderness.

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