​Ben E. King: Library of Congress honor is "greatest moment of my life"

TEANECK, N.J. - The Library of Congress revealed on Wednesday 25 audio recordings to be preserved in its National Recording Registry. Among them is "Stand by Me" by Ben E. King.

King has had some big hits. But when the Library of Congress came calling he says he thought it was a mistake.

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Ben E. King CBS News

"I think this is one of the greatest moments of my life," said King.

With its unmistakable baseline -- and message of enduring connection -- King wrote and recorded "Stand by Me" in 1960.

"It took no time at all, maybe a day or two," said King. "I'm not really a good songwriter but I am quick."

He was quick enough to improvise the song's signature moment in the studio.

"I didn't have anything to say so I said, 'darling, darling,'" remembered King. "That was filling time."

John Lennon is one of 400 artists who have covered "Stand by Me." Boxing legend Muhammad Ali is another. King says Ali once looked him in the eyes and told him he thought his cover version was better than King's original.

"I said to myself don't be stupid, tell him yes," King said with a chuckle.

King says he's honored to have his song be in the Library of Congress.

"To think that my children's children's children's will look at that one day and say wow, Gramp did that, that's a feeling."

A good feeling -- exactly what "Stand by Me" has provided for as long as Ben E. King has been singing it.

  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.