Keyboardist Billy Preston, a so-called "fifth Beatle" who also played with the Rolling Stones and enjoyed solo success in his own right, died in Arizona on Tuesday after a long illness. He was 59.
A young keyboards prodigy, the Houston , Texas, native spent most of his life in the entertainment business. While still a teenager, he played with the likes of Mahalia Jackson, Little Richard and Ray Charles .
He entered the Beatles' orbit in 1969, as the band was on the verge of breaking up, and helped to soothe some of the tension. He performed on both sides of the "Get Back"/"Don't Let Me Down" single, which was credited to "The Beatles with Billy Preston" -- the first time the band had shared the spotlight with a sideman. He also accompanied them during their last concert that year, the famous rooftop gig in London.
In the early 1970s, he topped the charts as a solo act with the Grammy-winning instrumental "Outa Space," "Will It Go Round in Circles" and "Nothing From Nothing." He also wrote Joe Cocker's 1974 hit "You Are So Beautiful."