R&B legend Ben E. King, who performed the classic song “Stand By Me,” has died. His publicist, Phil Brown, confirmed his passing to NBC News.

The 76-year-old crooner died on Thursday (April 30) of natural causes.

King, whose real name is Benjamin Earl Nelson, was born in Henderson, N.C., but moved to Harlem, N.Y., with his family when he was 9 years old.

He started his singing career in the 1950s as a member of the Drifters and performed on such classic tunes like “There Goes My Baby” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.” He left the group in 1960, after a contract dispute and in 1961, he scored a Top Five hit with “Stand By Me,” a song that the Drifters reportedly turned down.

The song gained a resurgence in 1986, when it was used in the Rob Reiner film of the same name. In April, the song was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in its national registry.

King had other hits like “Spanish Harlem,” “Amor,” “Don't Play That Song (You Lied)” and “Supernatural Thing - Part I,” but he will always be remembered for “Stand By Me.”

There have been several notable covers of the song by Tracy Chapman, Prince Royce, Seal, the late Bobby Womack and even Muhammad Ali. The track has been sampled several times in hip-hop songs, most notably by Sean Kingston in 2007 for “Beautiful Girls” and De La Soul’s “A Little Bit of Soap” from 3 Feet High and Rising.

Singer-songwriter Gary U.S. Bonds went on Facebook to pay tribute to his dear friend King. He wrote:

With an extremely heavy heart, I must say goodbye to one of the sweetest, gentlest and gifted souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend for more than 50 years - Mr. Ben E. King. Speaking for myself, my family & my Roadhouse Rockers family, I can tell you that Ben E. will be missed more than words can say. Our sincere condolences go out to Betty and the entire family. Thank you Ben E. for your friendship and the wonderful legacy you leave behind."

Ben E. King is a treasured soul icon. May he rest eternally in peace.

Listen to Ben E. King's "Stand By Me"

Listen to Ben E. King's "Spanish Harlem"

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