BEN E. KING, SOULFUL SINGER OF ‘STAND BY ME’
His lawyer, Judy Tint, said Mr. King, who lived in Teaneck, N.J., died at Hackensack University Medical Center after a brief illness, offering no further details.
Mr. King was working in his father’s Harlem luncheonette in 1956 when a local impresario, Lover Patterson, overheard him singing to himself and persuaded him to join a group he managed, the Five Crowns.
Lightning struck when the group, then known as the Crowns, performed at the Apollo Theater on a bill with the original Drifters in 1958 and attracted the attention of George Treadwell, who managed the Drifters and owned the name.
Mr. Treadwell had been feuding with his group, which had entered a lean period after Clyde McPhatter, its lead singer, was drafted into the Army in late 1954. He fired the Drifters en masse and replaced them with Mr. King and three of his fellow singers.
Atlantic Records assigned the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to produce the group’s recordings. The match turned out to be inspired, yielding a streak of hit records that helped the Drifters achieve crossover success. Mr. King’s suave but impassioned vocals had a lot to do with it.
“He had a way of retaining a gospel grit in his voice but at the same had an easy, debonair style that was appealing and ingratiating,” said Ken Emerson, the author of “Always Magic in the Air: The Bomp and Brilliance of the Brill Building Era,” about the Midtown Manhattan center of pop music songwriting.
“There Goes My Baby,” released in 1959, reached No. 2 on the pop charts. It was followed by “Dance With Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “I Count the Tears,” “Lonely Winds” and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” a No. 1 hit.
Mr. King left the Drifters in 1960 and embarked on a successful solo career. “Spanish Harlem,” written by Mr. Leiber with Phil Spector, reached the Top 10 that year. “Stand by Me,” which Mr. King helped write, reached the Top 10 in 1961 and again in 1986, when it was used in the soundtrack of the Rob Reiner film of the same name.
“Because he recorded the work of so many great songwriters, his own songwriting is often overlooked,” Mr. Emerson said. “But he co-wrote ‘There Goes My Baby,’ and ‘Stand by Me’ originated with him.” He was also the principal writer of “Dance With Me.”
Rolling Stone ranked “Stand by Me” 122nd on its list of the 500 greatest songs. In 1999 BMI, the music licensing organization, announced that it was the fourth-most-recorded song of the 20th century, having been played more than seven million times on radio and television.
Mr. King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson on Sept. 28, 1938, in Henderson, N.C., and grew up in Harlem, where his father had moved the family when he was a child. He took the surname King, which belonged to a favorite uncle, soon after joining the Drifters.
He began singing in church choirs and during high school formed a doo-wop group, the Four B’s, that occasionally performed at the Apollo. “To me, singing was fun,” he said in a 1993 interview with the website Classic Bands. “I never even visualized for a second doing what I’m doing.”
Mr. King was similarly offhand in describing his songwriting. In an interview with Bill Millar, the author of “The Drifters: The Rise and Fall of the Black Vocal Group” (1971), he said, “I’d sit down with this old guitar I have that’s missing all but three strings — no one else could play it, but I pick out tunes, and, when I have something, I’ll play it for someone who can write it.”
He was singing with the Five Crowns when, in 1958, the group signed with R&B Records, a fledgling label run by the songwriters Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. As the Crowns, the group recorded one song, “Kiss and Make Up,” before the company went out of business. The relationship proved fruitful, however. Pomus and Shuman went on to write “This Magic Moment” with Mr. King, as well as “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
Recording for Atco, a subsidiary of Atlantic, Mr. King scored modest successes in the 1960s with “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied),” “I (Who Have Nothing),” “Seven Letters” and “Tears, Tears, Tears.” In 1968, he performed on the single “Soul Meeting,” a minor hit for the Soul Clan, an Atlantic supergroup whose members also included Solomon Burke and Joe Tex.
By the end of the decade his career was in decline. He rebounded with the 1975 funk hit “Supernatural Thing, Part 1,” and in 1977 recorded a well-regarded album with the Average White Band, “Benny and Us.” He continued to turn out albums for Atlantic into the 1980s, recording “Let Me Live in Your Life” (1978), “Music Trance” (1980) and “Street Tough” (1981).
Mr. King later recorded for a variety of independent labels and performed regularly in clubs and small concert halls in the United States and abroad.
He is survived by his mother, Jenny Nelson; his wife, Betty King; two daughters, Terris Cannon and Angela Matos; a son, Benjamin Jr.; four sisters, Joyce Powell, Gladys Johnson, Deborah Nelson and Stacy Nelson; three brothers, Jeffrey, Calvin and Billy; and six grandchildren.
“I still think my whole career was accidental,” Mr. King told Classic Bands. “I didn’t pursue it. I feel like I’m cheating sometimes.”
It was in Rochester, in the summer of 1966, that he tried golf for the first time. He was 23. Friends invited him to a fish fry, he recalled in a 1986 interview with Boys’ Life magazine, but they took him to a golf course instead.
“I couldn’t get a ride home,” he said, “so I went along with the fool idea.”
Quickly bitten by the bug, and with his selling done at night, he began spending days on the golf course, teaching himself by reading books. He took advice on his grip from the man who sold him his golf gloves, practiced on a baseball field, made films of his stroke and studied them. It took him nine years and three trips to the PGA qualifying school before he earned the right to join the tour, at 32, in 1975.
At the time, blacks were rare in professional golf, a sport that had a history of exclusion. A “Caucasian-only” clause was not rescinded by the PGA until 1961, and only a handful of black golfers — among them Charlie Sifford (who died in February), Lee Elder and Jim Dent — preceded Peete on the pro tour.
In 1975, Elder became the first black golfer to play in the Masters in Augusta, Ga. In 1980, Peete was the second.
He never played especially well at the Masters; in 1986, his best finish, he tied for 11th. After the 1983 tournament — during which he had one of his worst rounds, an 87 on the third day — he was asked his opinion of the traditions at the Masters.
“Until Lee Elder, the only blacks at the Masters were caddies or waiters,” he said. “To ask a black man what he feels about the traditions of the Masters is like asking him how he feels about his forefathers who were slaves.”
Peete’s first marriage, to Christine Sears, ended in divorce. A complete list of survivors was unavailable, but they include his second wife, Pepper, and seven children.
In 1982, Peete took — and passed — a high school equivalency test; a high school diploma or its equivalent was required for membership on the American Ryder Cup team, which represents the United States in a competition against a team of Europeans. Peete played on two Ryder Cup teams. On the 1983 squad with Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange and other stars, he helped the United States to a narrow victory.
“Calvin Peete was a remarkable golfer; he overcame a lot of adversity, including a physical limitation, to become a very, very good golfer,” Nicklaus wrote on his website on Wednesday. “Over the years, we played a lot of golf together, and I was amazed at what he could get out of his game.”
Nicklaus added, “He was an extremely straight driver of the golf ball; a very smart golfer; and, you might say, he was very much an overachiever.”
SUZANNE CROUGH, ACTRESS IN ‘THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY’
The Clark County coroner, John Fudenberg, said that the cause was unknown and that an autopsy would be performed.
Ms. Crough had appeared only in a Barbie commercial before she was cast on “The Partridge Family,” which debuted on ABC in 1970. Her character sang backup vocals, played the tambourine and set up punch lines for her older co-stars Danny Bonaduce and David Cassidy.
The cast also included Brian Forster, Susan Dey and Shirley Jones, as the widowed mother of the children, as well as Dave Madden, who played the group’s manager.
After the show went off the air in 1974, Ms. Crough appeared in the 1977 drama series “Mulligan’s Stew” on NBC and in the Academy Award-winning short film “Teenage Father” in 1978. Her last credited role was in the television movie “Children of Divorce” in 1980.
Ms. Crough was born on March 6, 1963, in Fullerton, Calif., and graduated from Los Angeles Pierce College. She owned a bookstore until 1993. She told Al Roker of the “Today” show in 2010 that in recent years she had been working as a manager at OfficeMax.
Survivors include her husband, William Condray; their daughters, Samantha and Alexandra; and a granddaughter.
An earlier version of the headline with this obituary misspelled the name of the show on which Ms. Crough appeared. As the obituary correctly stated, it was “The Partridge Family,” not “The Patridge Family.”