Ben E. King died at the age of 76 on Thursday, April 30, NBC News reports. The R&B legend's publicist confirmed the news on Friday.
King was born in Henderson, N.C., and later moved to Harlem, N.Y., at age 9. He broke out in the music industry in 1958, and became a household name when he composed "Stand By Me" in 1961. The classic, his best known tune to date, was used as the theme song in the film of the same name in 1986.
The singer also joined the doo-wop group The Drifters in 1958, but left the band in 1960 over a contract dispute. Some of their hits include "Supernatural Thing" and "There Goes My Baby."
King's close friend, fellow musician Gary U.S. Bonds, paid tribute to the star via Facebook. "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," he wrote. "Speaking for myself, my family & my Roadhouse Rockers family, I can tell you that Ben E. will be missed more than words can say."
He added: "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."
King is survived by his wife, songwriter Betty Nelson.
Sign up now for the Us Weekly newsletter to get breaking celebrity news, hot pics and more delivered straight to your inbox!