“And the land is dark. And the moon is the only light we’ll see.” – Ben E. King
Happy fall, ya’ll. That’s what us southern folk like to say around these here parts. I was at a good ol’ southern wedding here in Arkansas a few weeks ago, and this is a picture of the band that performed! Just kidding of course, but the bride and groom had their first dance to the song “Stand By Me.” I was glad to hear the song though it wasn’t the 1961 Ben E. King original playing over the speaker system, but instead a newer version from 2018 sung by Skylar Grey. The song is a beautiful song and always appropriate for a wedding.
The song also represents the title of a great 80’s coming-of-age movie. It’s been 35 years since the movie “Stand by Me” hit the theaters in August of 1986. It’s probably been that long since I watched the movie in its’ entirety until recently. I had never read the Stephen King novella from which the movie was based called “The Body,” so I decided to purchase it on my Ipad and read it. The book has a few differences and more character development as you’d expect. There were definitely parts in the book that I liked and made more sense than they did in the movie and there were parts of the movie that I liked better than in the book. The one thing about reading the book after having seen the movie first is that you had a better visual for who was talking since the movie was so well-known for its’ all-star cast. Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix (R.I.P.), Corey Feldman, Jerry O’Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, John Cusack, and Richard Dreyfuss anchor the 80’s classic set in 1959 (yes, prior to Ben E. King’s song), and featuring music from that era.
“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in the summer of 1959, a long time ago, but only if you measure in terms of years. I was living in a small town in Oregon called Castle Rock. There were only twelve hundred and eighty-one people. But to me, it was the whole world.” – Narrator Gordie (Richard Dreyfuss
I was living in a small town in Oklahoma called Seminole (population was about 8,000 so I don’t guess it was that small) when I was 12 and I had a group of buddies that would have done this very thing. We would have traversed miles through the woods and along train tracks to see a dead body. The closest thing we had though were woods behind our elementary school where you could ride your bike and you might occasionally stumble upon a passed-out drunk, but no dead bodies. And the furthest we ever walked was probably the one mile trek from my house to the local Wal-Mart. My best friend at the time, Brandon, and I would put what little money we had or could beg from our parents in our pockets and start off for the nearest place with video games, which was Wal-Mart. Besides the Pac Man and Donkey Kong machines, the toy and music sections also held strong allures for our 11 and 12 year old desires. This was a time when Star Wars action figures were still really popular. I could also buy baseball cards at Wal-Mart and I owned a Sony Walkman so the music section was always of interest as well. I still have the cassettes of Men At Work and The Cars I bought there along with the 45’s of REO Speedwagon, Steve Perry, and Prince for my record player when I couldn’t afford the cassette.
Brandon and I would often play a game on our walk where we would hide from the cars driving by like they were vehicles hired to find and destroy two 12-year-olds whose sole mission was to arrive at our destination safely and save the earth or some such scenario. Because our path to Wal-Mart involved following a few streets, it was difficult to find places to hide on occasion. Sometimes it was behind trees and sometimes we’d lay in a shallow drainage ditch on the side of the street. There was a stretch the closer you got to Walmart where there wasn’t anywhere to hide so sometimes we’d sprint that wide-open short distance. The final part was the steep hill down to Walmart. It was a kid’s dream to eventually sled that hill during the winter, but it was too heavily driven and too dangerous for kids to go flying down on sleds lest they run into a car or skid all the way onto Milt Phillips Avenue which was also the highway that ran through Seminole. Occasionally though if Brandon and I could find some cardboard behind Wal-Mart we would use that to slide down the hill right next to the street.
At the end of the movie, the narrator (Dreyfuss) says: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?”
When you’re 12, a day can seem like an eternity and your friends seem like they’ll be with you forever. As we get older, most of us realize our 12-year-old friends often drift away like dreams that we’re not sure ever really happened. Most of us are rarely in contact with those same friends as the years turn from 12 into 30, 40, or 50. But if we’re lucky we might have a picture or two that reminds us of those times, and just maybe one or two of those friends might stick.
“Do you think I’m weird?” – Gordie (Wil Wheaton)
“Definitely. Yeah, but so what. Everybody’s weird.” – Chris (River Phoenix)
“Whenever you’re in trouble won’t you stand by me.”
Mickey Gilley turned today’s song into a #1 country hit on the heels of the “Urban Cowboy” movie, and there have been numerous cover versions through the years, but like they say – there’s nothing like the original. So check out the remastered version and this 80’s video which I have no recollection of that features then 48 year-old Ben E. King as well as movie co-stars Wil Wheaton and River Phoenix.
King’s version of the song broke the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 in two different decades reaching #4 in 1961 and then re-entering the charts and peaking at #9 in December of 1986. Here is “Stand By Me”
And just for comparison, here is the 2018 Skylar Grey version which actually appeared in a Budweiser commercial for Super Bowl LII (with proceeds going to the American Red Cross)…
And in case you’re wondering about that Mickey Gilley #1 countrified version, here it is as well…
Thanks for reading.