He was 76 years old.
King, born Benjamin Earl Nelson in North Carolina, was perhaps best known for his work with the group the Drifters, for whom he wrote and sang songs including "There Goes My Baby," "Save the Last Dance for Me," and "This Magic Moment." After leaving the Drifters in 1960, King adopted his solo stage name.
He would land a No. 1 hit with "Stand By Me" in 1961, a feat the record repeated in 1986 when it was used as the theme for the movie with the same name. King earned 12 top 10 hits and 25 Top 40 hits from 1959 to 1986, according to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The singer, who also ran a charitable organization, The Stand By Me Foundation, had been performing as recently as last year.
He is survived by his wife of more than 50 years, Betty.