Kirsten Thien recently had the most incredible honor of spending the day in the studio and contributing to a new recording of “Stand By Me” with Take 6 backing Ben E. King. Read the full report in Kirsten’s own words from the recent newsletter update to fans. Sign up now.
A letter to fans…
Dear Good People!
There aren’t enough exclamation points to express my gratitude to the folks who invited me down to participate in this amazing recording. It was the most awesome all-day studio hang ever with the guys from Take 6, Ben E. King, and so many other wonderful, and warm, and amazingly talented people!
The call to come down to this session and “lend my voice” came on Wednesday. Yes the day before! When someone asks you, “Are you free to come down to a session with Ben E. King tomorrow?”, the only answer is: “YES!”
As I hung up the phone, I had little idea exactly what the session would require of me, but quickly made the assumption that I’d be in the choir. Little did I know, there was a story unraveling around this new recording of the song and around a tribute to Ben E. King.
I arrived at the studio and Ben E. was being interviewed on camera. I spent a bit of time being introduced, or re-introduced to the guys from Take 6 and the other folks there to sing. Cissy Houston was whisked away to be interviewed with Ben E., then Take 6 joined them on the interview. The rest of the room watched as folks told wonderful stories, and laughed and just had a grand ‘ol time! Then, to our surprise, the producers hollered over, “How about all the guest vocalists come over and tell a little bit about what this song means to you?”. Now we are a crew of about 20 people in a semi-circle around Cissy and Ben E., and all of us guest singers had a chance to address Ben E. and thank him for this beautiful song that has touched the lives of so many.
And then came the singing!!!
Take 6 had finished the recording their a cappella backing track that morning, and our first order of business was for all the singers to sing out of the melody for the finale/end chorus of the song. After this, Cissy Houston stayed in the booth to record a lead vocal which could be mixed together with Ben E. later. This is when I started to realize, “Wait, we’re ALL going to go in there to record a lead vocal pass?!” A surprise, an honor, and, GULP… Ben E. was intently watching and enjoying each singer’s interpretation — smiling the whole time!
I was the last of the guest artists to record. I got to say “Test 1,2” and then the track started! The melody of the song is situated for a male voice, so I’m digging deep like most of the ladies had to, in order to stick to the melody at the top and find my place on the mic and within the track. It was a big challenge, with Ben E. and Take 6 all right on the other side of the window watching and listening! It took me a time through to reign in my emotions and find my voice singing solo lead on this song for, well, the first time in my life! The second time through the song (an unexpected second chance due to a failed video camera battery!), I was able to be “myself” and get hold of crazy emotions to, most importantly, honor a legendary song in front of this titan who created it!
Ben E. Recording
“Stand By Me” with Take 6
And now it was time to sit back and watch the master, Ben E. King record his lead. To watch Ben E. re-create the magic of this song right in front of us, and hear his ad libbed “Woman, woman, woman. If you love me stand by me,” was a moment I shall cherish for my whole life.
As if that weren’t enough, Ben E. was so incredibly interested in each and every guest that came to participate. We spent a lot of time talking throughout the day about this and that. He asked so many questions about my music and some of the work I’ve done with kids to bring them music in the schools or as part of an educational program at festivals. (“Stand By Me” is part of the program!) Several times he made sure I’d send him a copy of my music. Gosh, Ben E. made us all feel so welcome — a part of the song as it lives and breathes and grows. We parted with an embrace and left with the musical connection filling our spirits, enriching our lives once again.
I look forward to sharing the final track with you once it’s released! There were many guests and possibly more to come. Who knows how much we will ultimately hear of the solo tracks from each guest. However it ends up, it will be a fantastic and unique recording after what I heard yesterday! My heart is full from the experience and my soul is challenged to keep working and striving to make lasting music like Ben E. King.
Rockin’ peace to ya,