Stand By Me (Playing For Change)

“Stand By Me” is the first of many songs performed by musicians around the World, produced by “Playing For Change”; a multimedia music project, created by the American producer and sound engineer Mark Johnson with his Timeless Media Group, that seeks to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.

Playing For Change was born in 2002 as a shared vision between co-founders, Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke, to hit the streets of America with a mobile recording studio and cameras in search of inspiration and the heartbeat of the people. In 2005, Mark Johnson was walking in Santa Monica, California, when he heard the voice of Roger Ridley (now deceased) singing “Stand By Me.” Roger had so much soul and conviction in his voice, and Mark approached him about performing “Stand By Me” as a Song Around The World. Roger agreed, and when Mark returned with recording equipment and cameras he asked Roger, “With a voice like yours, why are you singing on the streets?” Roger replied, “Man I’m in the Joy business, I come out to be with the people.” Ever since that day, the Playing For Change crew has traveled the world recording and filming musicians, creating Songs Around The World, and building a global family.

“Stand by Me” is a song originally performed by American singer-songwriter Ben E. King, written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, inspired by the spiritual “Lord Stand by Me”, plus two lines rooted in Psalms 46:2–3. The song is featured on the soundtrack of the 1986 film Stand by Me.

According to the documentary History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Ben E. King had no intention of recording the song himself when he wrote it. King had written it for The Drifters, who passed on recording it. After the “Spanish Harlem” recording session, he had some studio time left over. The session’s producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, asked if he had any more songs. King played “Stand by Me” on the piano for them. They liked it and called the studio musicians back in to record it.

Stoller recalls it differently:

I remember arriving at our office as Jerry and Ben were working on lyrics for a new song. King had the beginnings of a melody that he was singing a cappella. I went to the piano and worked up the harmonies, developing a bass pattern that became the signature of the song. Ben and Jerry quickly finished the lyrics …

In another interview, Stoller said:

Ben E. had the beginnings of a song—both words and music. He worked on the lyrics together with Jerry, and I added elements to the music, particularly the bass line. To some degree, it’s based on a gospel song called “Lord Stand By Me”. I have a feeling that Jerry and Ben E. were inspired by it. Ben, of course, had a strong background in church music. He’s a 50% writer on the song, and Jerry and I are 25% each…. When I walked in, Jerry and Ben E. were working on the lyrics to a song. They were at an old oak desk we had in the office. Jerry was sitting behind it, and Benny was sitting on the top. They looked up and said they were writing a song. I said, “Let me hear it.”… Ben began to sing the song a cappella. I went over to the upright piano and found the chord changes behind the melody he was singing. It was in the key of A. Then I created a bass line. Jerry said, “Man that’s it!” We used my bass pattern for a starting point and, later, we used it as the basis for the string arrangement created by Stanley Applebaum.

The personnel on the song included Romeo Penque on sax, Ernie Hayes on piano, Al Caiola and Charles McCracken on guitars, Lloyd Trotman on bass, Phil Kraus on percussion, and Gary Chester on drums, plus a wordless mixed chorus and strings. Songwriting credits on the single were shown as King and Elmo Glick—a pseudonym used by Leiber and Stoller.

Lyrics

Playing for Change version

Oh yeah, oh my darlin’ stand by me

No matter who you are, no matter where you go in life
You gon’ need somebody to stand by you
No matter how much money you got or the friends you got
You gon’ need somebody to stand by you

When the night has come and the land is dark
And that moon is the only light you see
No, I won’t be afraid, no, I won’t shed one tear
Just as long as the people come and stand by me

Darlin’, darlin’ stand by me, oh, oh, oh, stand by me
Oh stand, stand, stand by me, c’mon stand by me, stand by me

Ooh, when that sky that we look upon, well should tumble and fall
Oh and the mountains, they should crumble into the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t she’d a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So darling, darling stand by me, oh stand by me
Please stand, stand by me, stand by me
And darling, darling stand by me, oh stand by me
Please stand, stand by me, stand by me, oh baby, baby

Oh darlin’, darlin’, stand
(La, la, nomie)
Oh, oh, oh, stand
(La, la, nomie)
Oh, stand, oh, stand, stand
Stand by me, c’mon, stand by me, stand by me

Stand
(La, la, nomie)
Oh won’t you stand?
(La, la, nomie)
Oh stand
(La, la, nomie)
Stand by me, c’mon stand by me

When the night has come and the land is dark
And the moon is the only light you see
I won’t be afraid
(La, la, nomie)
I won’t be afraid
Not as long, not as long as you stand by me

Ben E. King version

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we’ll see
No I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

Oh darlin’, darlin’, stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me

If the sky that we look upon
Should tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darlin’, darlin’, stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah

And darlin’, darlin’, stand by me, oh stand by me
Oh stand now by me, stand by me, stand by me-e, yeah

Whenever you’re in trouble won’t you stand by me, oh now now stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me
Oh stand by me, stand by me

Sources