Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Billy Preston dead at 59

Beatles sideman leaves legacy of music

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."

The Houston Chronicle and Black America Web pay tribute to this remarkable musician.

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Shirazi said...

Sad! World loses another artist.

Rose said...

This is so sad....I used to love his music. Actually I still do because this artist made music that last.

Ian Lidster said...

What a nice testament to one of the largely unsung (pardon the expression) giants of music. Good for you. I mentioned to my wife the other day that Billy Preston had died, and she said: "Who?"

Dr. Deborah Serani said...

He was the fifth BEatle, and by all accounts a very influential figure to the fab four. So sad, he died too young.

Deb S. said...

Ian: Maybe you'll have to buy a Billy Preston CD for your wife!

Dr. Deb: At least one radio station in my city paid tribute to Billy Preston's music. I enjoyed hearing it again. I was pleasantly surprsed to find that my daughter is familiar with some of his music.

Enemy of the Republic said...

I was really saddened by his loss. He was a great talent.