Tonight a dear friend treated me to a Ben E. King concert; it was great. Well into his 70s, Mr. King can still carry a tune a give a commanding performance. It was surprising to note how grave his speaking voice was (reminiscent of the late Lou Rawls') in comparison with his singing voice. And speak to his audience he did: at different points, he asked us, "How far back do you want to go?", to which we responded, "Far!". He would also say, "Now you can't possibly remember this song," but we all did--even I, who wasn't even born when many of them came out, but who am a huge fan nonetheless. In fact, three bars were enough for me to identify the songs. Not only did Mr. King sing many of his hits with The Drifters, but he also conjured up the late, great Sam Cooke. The theater wasn't packed, but all of us there were enthusiastic and reverent. He sang my favorite, "Spanish Harlem," and finished with "Stand By Me," which he dedicated to us. I repeat that it was great, but he didn't get to sing "I Count The Tears," which I also love and is much less known today, so I had to listen to it when I got home.
Originally published on Facebook on April 7, 2013. Ben E. King died two years later, on April 30; he was 76 years old.