Was John Lennon’s ‘Stand by Me’ More Successful Than Ben E. King’s?

One of the most famous songs that John Lennon released during his solo career is a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” Both versions of the song remain famous decades after their release. This raises an interesting question: Which was more successful on the charts?

John Lennon being interviewed by journalist Steve Turner of Beat Instrumental magazine
John Lennon | Michael Putland/Getty Images

The never-released Beatles version of ‘Stand by Me’

Firstly, a little background. King was a member of the group called The Drifters. He left the group. When he performed “Stand by Me,” he missed the harmonies of The Drifters, reports Rolling Stone. He recalled he was “almost in tears, singing the song. It was like an artist paintin’ a picture that’s not there. I was doin’ it and I knew it was wrong. But I guess that within that sadness I delivered something. The feelin’ was just pouring out.”

The Beatles covered the track during a session for Get Back, the album that became Let It Be, reports Rolling Stone. The cover was not featured on the final version of the album.

Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”

RELATED: John Lennon Went on a Drug-Fueled Road Trip With Keith Richards and Left With No Memory of It

What Ben E. King thought of John Lennon’s ‘Stand by Me’

Regardless of the fact that The Beatles never released a cover of King’s “Stand by Me,” the song became a standard. It’s been covered by everyone from Otis Redding to Florence and the Machine to Prince Royce. John fittingly covered the track for his covers album Rock ‘n’ Roll. That album is a nostalgic trip through the rock and pop music of the 1950s and 1960s. This raises an interesting question: What did King think of John’s version of the track?

“The song has been covered by many great artists, and I feel honored to have been one of its writers,” King told the Min-On Concert Association. “Indeed, I am impressed by the fact that all those singers really love to sing the song—John Lennon and Bono among many others. I believe that their versions have helped keep the song alive for such a long time.”

John Lennon’s “Stand by Me”

RELATED: What Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger Did That John Lennon Called ‘Bullsh*t’

How the world reacted to Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by Me’

So which version of the song charted better? King’s version reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was a huge hit. It’s the 496th most popular song in the history of the Billboard Hot 100. It also provided the title for the 1980s film of the same name, which featured the track on its soundtrack. In addition, King’s version of “Stand by Me” received renewed attention in the 2000s when Sean Kingston sampled its instrumentation for his song “Beautiful Girls.” 

How the world reacted to John Lennon’s cover

On the other hand, John’s version of the song reached No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album Rock ‘n’ Roll was more successful than the song, reaching No. 6 on the Billboard 200. While John was in the most successful band ever, he couldn’t produce a version of “Stand By Me” which outshined the chart success of the original.