Ben E. King: He Sang ‘Stand by Me’

R&B singer Ben E. King, who passed away April 30 at age 76 in Hackensack, N.J., had a smooth, unaffected baritone and soulful delivery that earned him a string of top 10 singles between the late 1950s and early 1960s, both as a member of the Drifters and as a solo artist. But it was one song, “Stand by Me,” that ensured musical immortality for the North Carolina native. After becoming a hit in 1961, the song enjoyed a second …

Lesley Gore: She Sang ‘It’s My Party’

If ever a song perfectly captured teenage betrayal, it was “It’s My Party” sung by Lesley Gore. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the spring of 1963. Gore, who passed away on Feb. 16 at age 68 in New York City, recorded the song at age 16, when she was still a high school junior in New Jersey. It became the biggest hit in a multifaceted career that included several other hit singles, acting roles in TV and …

Joe Cocker: Shakin’ Soul Shouter

As a singer, Joe Cocker was blessed with a magnificently raspy, soulful delivery that made him one of the most immediately recognizable vocalists in the history of rock music. But what really stuck in the public’s mind was his dancing: those flailing, knock-kneed, spasmodic movements that made it almost seem as if he was struggling with a demonic possession as he blew away the crowd at the Woodstock festival in 1969. As Cocker explained in a 2013 interview, even he …

Jimmy Ruffin: What Becomes of the Brokenhearted?

If only a casual fan of classic 1960s soul music, you might easily confuse Jimmy Ruffin with his younger brother David, who rose to much greater fame as lead singer of the Temptations. But it was Jimmy Ruffin, who passed away Nov. 17 at age 78 in Las Vegas, who scored one of the most iconic Motown hits, an anthem of lost love entitled “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” It climbed to No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart …

‘When Will I Be Loved?': Linda Ronstadt Gets an Answer

Legendary singer Linda Ronstadt, 68, undoubtedly has had plenty of secret admirers over the years, though perhaps none quite as famous as the president of the United States. Ronstadt, who’s won numerous accolades over the years for her “one-of-a-kind voice,” was at a White House ceremony on July 28 to receive the National Medal of Arts. As President Barack Obama prepared to hang the medal around Ronstadt’s neck, he confessed, “I had a little crush on her back in the …

Elaine Stritch: Earthy Diva

Actress-singer Elaine Stritch, who died on July 17 at age 89 in Birmingham, Mich., wasn’t the sort who would go gentle into that good night – or any night, for that matter. The gravel-voiced Broadway diva, who made her career playing what the New York Times once called “brash and bawdy characters,” preferred staying out late, and having a cigarette and a drink or three. “I don’t regret a day of my life,” as she once told an interviewer. In a …