Best remembered for the smash "She Wears My Ring," singer Solomon King was born Allen Levy in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1930. Raised on pop standards and country music, he made his debut stage appearance at the age of ten and began performing professionally at 21. An imposing figure at 6'8", Levy first worked under the stage name Randy Leeds, producing a handful of little-heard singles including "I'm Gonna Live Til I Die" and "My Oh My." He was the first white singer to open for jazz legend Billie Holiday, however, and was sufficiently famous to merit an interview with Canadian journalist Henny Lowy, who became his wife in 1960. For a time Levy served as a member of Elvis Presley's renowned backing vocalists the Jordanaires, but when he and Lowy relocated to London in 1965 he resumed his solo aspirations, assuming the name Solomon King. After signing with manager Gordon Mills, the star-maker behind Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck, in 1967 King recorded "She Wears My Ring," a Boudleaux and Felice Bryant-penned tune based on Mexican composer Narciso Serradel Sevilla's "La Golondrina (The Swallow)." First recorded by Roy Orbison five years earlier, King's rendition proved a massive hit across Europe, reaching the number three spot during a five-month run on the U.K. pop charts. ("She Wears My Ring" did nothing in the singer's native U.S., however, falling well shy of the Hot 100. Ray Price's Nashville version fared somewhat better.) The follow-up, "When We Were Young," hit the British Top 40, but King's star quickly plummeted. For better or worse, he made few concessions to contemporary tastes, stuffing his LPs with Jewish favorites ("My Yiddishe Momma") and wartime crowd-pleasers ("The White Cliffs of Dover") that made plain his complete disconnection from the average pop listener. He remained popular on the cabaret circuit, however, and in 1971 adopted a new alias, Levi Jackson, to record a gospel single titled "This Beautiful Day." Though little-noticed on its original release, the record is now a minor classic on the Northern soul circuit. After one last stab at mainstream success with the title theme to 1974's The Doll Squad, King essentially retired to the club circuit for good, returning to the U.S. following the 1980 dissolution of his marriage to Lowy. He died in Oklahoma on January 21, 2005.
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