Soul singer Ben E. King -- most famous for his classic, "Stand By Me" -- died on Thursday ... according to his publicist.
King reportedly died at his home in New Jersey after suffering a heart ailment. He was 76 years old.
King's mega hit song made it to Billboard's top five in 1961 -- but "Stand By Me" returned to the charts in the '80s. It was also covered several times by other artists ... including John Lennon ... and made the charts 9 times.
He started his career with the Drifters in the '50s and had hits like "Save the Last Dance for Me" and "There Goes My Baby."
Ben E.'s passing comes just 2 weeks after the death of another soul legend -- Percy Sledge, who sang "When a Man Loves a Woman."