The Towering Song Award is presented to the creators of an individual song that has influenced our culture in a unique way over many years. Previous Towering Songs have included “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” The Towering Performance Award is given in recognition of one-of-a-kind performances by one-of-a-kind singers. Often called “songwriter’s singers,” they have recorded outstanding and unforgettable interpretations of songs that have become iconic standards. Past recipients include Tony Bennett for “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” and Andy Williams for “Moon River.”
“Stand By Me” was written by Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and Ben E. King, and originally recorded by King with Leiber & Stoller producing. King’s record went to #1 on the R&B Charts in 1961 and was a Top 10 hit on the U.S. pop charts twice: in 1961, and again in 1986 when used as the theme song for the movie, Stand By Me. It has over 400 recorded versions, including hits by Earl Grant, Spyder Turner, David & Jimmy Ruffin, John Lennon, Mickey Gilley, Maurice White, 4 The Cause, and Prince Royce, and was sampled on Sean Kingston’s #1 hit “Beautiful Girls,” making it the song to have charted the most times on Billboard’s Hot 100. “Stand By Me” received a Grammy® Hall of Fame Award and is also on the top of the lists of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time,” RIAA’s “Songs of the Century,” and is in the top five of BMI’s most-performed songs of the 20th century. It is a favorite of major acts: U2 has performed it live with Bruce Springsteen; and Lady Gaga, with Sting. A 2008 music video featuring “Stand By Me” performed by street musicians from around the world has been viewed on YouTube over 40 million times. Its success launched a foundation called Playing For Change that builds music schools around the globe.
Leiber and Stoller were inducted to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985. They were honored for their legendary catalog that includes Elvis Presley hits “Hound Dog” and “Love Me,” The Coasters’ “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown,” and a host of other career defining standards, including “Kansas City,” “On Broadway,” and Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is.”
As a lead singer of The Drifters and as a famed solo artist, King achieved a #1 hit with “Stand By Me,” and in his long career he has earned 12 Top 10 hits and 25 Top 40 hits, from 1959 to 1986.