Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Mickey Gilley, “Stand By Me”

“Stand By Me”

Mickey Gilley

Written by Ben E. King, Jerome Leiber, and Michael Stoller

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

July 25 – August 1, 1980


#1 (1 week)

August 9, 1980

After “True Love Ways” became Mickey Gilley’s first No. 1 hit in three years, another cover of a hit from the early rock era became his second consecutive No. 1 single.

Featured on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack, Gilley’s take on “Stand By Me” has been one of his most enduring records.  Part of the reason is because it’s simply a great song. Ben E. King’s original version is one of the best recordings of all time, and it had already been covered successfully by Otis Redding and John Lennon.

Gilley’s version was particularly successful because of how much he made it his own.  He tweaks the lyrics in the chorus and his phrasing is completely original.  The pace is slowed down significantly and the bass line that defined the original recording is no longer prominent.  It’s a truly creative take on a very familiar recording.

There are bigger Urban Cowboy hits on the way, and the high profile success of the soundtrack is one of the reasons that we’ll be seeing so much more of Mickey Gilley in the next couple of years.

“Stand By Me” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: Mickey Gilley, “True Love Ways” |

Next: Bellamy Brothers, “Dancin’ Cowboys”


  1. Jim Ed Norman proved to be the producer that Mickey Gilley needed. Together, they racked up a string of number one hits on the country chart.

    And having a song on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack only helped Gilley’s success as Stand By Me hit the pop chart as well.

    I’m not sure how involved Norman was in choosing the material, but Gilley’s songs sounded so much better during this time. Look to see him many more times in this 80s feature.

  2. This was the only version of this song I knew for years. It is a rock in the foundation of my country music fandom, seemingly a constant radio presence for me listening to KEEY K-102 in the Twin Cities as a kid.

    I guess it is difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the influence of this soundtrack and film to the history of country music.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.