Ben E King has died.

The R&B legend - who was best known for his hit single 'Stand By Me' which was released in 1961 - has passed away at the age of 76, his publicist has confirmed, with fellow musician Gary 'U.S.' Bonds describing him as ''one of the sweetest'' people he had ever met.

In a statement on his Facebook page, he said Ben was, ''one of the sweetest, gentlest and gifted souls that I have had the privilege of knowing and calling my friend for more than 50 years.

''I can tell you that Ben E will be missed more than words can say. Our sincere condolences go out to Betty and the entire family.

''Thank you Ben E for your friendship and the wonderful legacy you leave behind.''

The soul singer began his career with The Drifters in the late 1950s before going solo and reaching stardom with 'Stand By Me' which has charted nine times on the US Billboard 100 thanks to cover versions from stars including John Lennon and Spyder Turner.

Between 1961 and 1975, the musical legend had six songs feature in the US Billboard top 40 - including 'Spanish Harlem' and 'Supernatural Thing - Part 1' - although it was his iconic hit which contributed to his legacy, with the song being named the fourth most-played track of the 20th Century on US radio and TV in 1999.

'Stand By Me' was recently added to the National Recording Registry by the US Library of Congress, who said ''it was King's incandescent vocal that made it a classic''.