Thursday, April 25, 2024

Royal Wedding Song “Stand by Me” Was a Surprise to Famed Composer Mike Stoller: “I didn’t think it would be the ONLY song”


A couple of days before the royal wedding, famed pop music composer Mike Stoller received a call from his office.

He told me, “We heard they might be using ‘Stand by Me’ among other songs in the ceremony.” That was it.

Cut to last Saturday morning. Stoller and his singer-songwriter wife Corky Hale were in Ogunquit, Maine for a pre-Broadway performance of the Lieber and Stoller hit musical “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.” Suddenly the phone started ringing, as they say, off the hook.

“Stand By Me,” which the late Jerry Lieber and Stoller wrote and produced, adapting it from Ben E. King of the Drifters 58 years ago, was featured in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding as performed by the Royal Kingdom Choir. It was the only pop hit heard during the ceremony, which was a massive ratings getter internationally.

Mike told me today: “We didn’t know it would be the ONLY pop song in the ceremony.” He paused. “I’m just thrilled.”

The original version of “Stand by Me” remains a classic pop and R&B hit. There have many dozens of cover hits, too, including a famous one by John Lennon.

Stoller said in an interview published several years ago: “Ben E. had the beginings 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.”

The song makes for the big finale of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” a musical comprising the Lieber-Stoller songbook, which returns to Broadway in July. The original production played 2,036 performances from 1995-2000.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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