Ben E. King’s ‘Spanish Harlem’ Recorded By Phil Spector (video)

May 2, 2015

01-ben-e-king-best-songs.w750.h560.2x“Spanish Harlem” is a song released by Ben E. King in 1960 on Atco Records, written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector, and produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. During a 1968 interview, Leiber credited Stoller with the arrangement; similarly, in a 2009 radio interview with Leiber and Stoller on the Bob Edwards “Weekend Edition” talk show, Jerry Leiber said that Stoller, while uncredited, had written the key instrumental introduction to the record. In the team’s autobiography from the same year, “Hound Dog“, Stoller himself remarks that he had created this “fill” while doing a piano accompaniment when the song was presented to Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler at Atlantic Records, with Spector playing guitar and Jerry Leiber doing the vocal.

“Since then, I’ve never heard the song played without that musical figure. presumed my contribution was seminal to the composition, but I also knew that Phil didn’t want to share credit with anyone but Jerry, so I kept quiet.”

Here is the original version of the Ben E. King song recorded by Phil Spector using his wall of sound approach. Listen to that beautiful instrumentation:

The song was King’s first hit away from The Drifters, a group he had led for several years. With an arrangement by Stan Applebaum featuring Spanish guitar, marimba, drum-beats, Trumpet, strings, featuring violins being played in the high register, and a male chorus, that hums and sings. it climbed the Billboard charts, eventually peaking at #15 R&B and #10 Pop. It was later ranked #349 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. King’s version was not a hit in the UK: the record was flipped and it was the other side, “First Taste of Love”, that was played on Radio Luxembourg, charting at #27. In 1987, after Stand By Me made #1, the song was re-released and charted at #92 (source).


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