Celebrating the talented Billy Preston

He was born on this day in 1946

Celebrating the talented Billy Preston

Billy Preston was born William Everett Preston on September the 2nd of 1946 in Houston, Texas, he is one of Rock’s music most important and influential musicians, having played a role in some of Rock’s most important moments and among the restricted group people that are considered the “5th Beatle” due to his collaboration with the band. With only 16, in 1962, Billy joined Little Richard’s band as a keyboardist and toured Europe where he first meets The Beatles while playing in Hamburg. Simultaneously he develops a career as a (much requested) session musician and a solo artist where he plays other artists covers and composes his own songs, among some of the ones he composed and co-authored is the famous “You Are So Beautiful” that he wrote for his mother. Some of his most relevant and best selling albums were his 1963 debut “16 Yr. Old Soul”, 1969 “That’s the Way God Planned It” on Beatles label Apple featuring guests George Harrison, Keith Richards and Eric Clapton and 1970 “Encouraging Words” that included the  guests George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Delaney Bramlett During the late 60′ he moves briefly to England where he reconnects with The Beatles and played as a keyboardist on their last two albums “Abbey Road” and “Let It Be”, Preston is the only musician to be credited in a Beatles album other than the band themselves. Caught up during  the band most difficult period, John Lennon, considered recruiting Preston as an official member of the band, not just because of his talent as a musician but also due the positive attitude in the studio among The Beatles when Preston was present, as they were able to produce more and there wasn’t any arguing between them. Preston can be seen in the documentary film “Let It Be” as well as on The Beatles famous rooftop concert, their last ever live appearance in 1969. Preston continued to collaborate in several of the solo records and projects of The Beatles members during the 70’s, specially with George Harrison. Also during the 70’s he did a long collaboration with The Rolling Stones, as a session musician in almost every album the band did during that period, including “Sticky Fingers”, “Exile On Main St.”, “Goats Head Soup” (where there is a big photo of him in the inner sleeve) and “It’s Only Rock N’Roll”.

But his collaboration with The Stones was not only in the studio, he also was a band member on live concerts during the 70’s. Preston remained a very active musician during the 80’s, 90’s and up until his death in 2006. In 2002  he worked on Johnny Cash’s “American IV: The Man Comes Around” on the tracks “Personal Jesus” and “Tea-Stained Letter”, he also collaborated with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in the 2006 album “Stadium Arcadium” in the track “Warlocks” where he played clavinet. Other significant collaboration was with Eric Clapton Despite his successful career, Preston was a troubled man who struggled to accept his own homosexuality,  he was a committed Christian throughout his life and he openly expressed his faith in works such as his 1970s hit “That’s the Way God Planned It”. However, his personal beliefs were sometimes at odds with the attitudes and musical expressions of the secular world of rock & roll in which he often worked – while he was apparently willing to put his religious views aside when working on tracks like John Lennon’s openly atheistic song “God”, he was reported to have been particularly uncomfortable with having to perform “Sympathy for the Devil” while touring with the Rolling Stone . He kept his sexuality a secret all his life, though the ones who were close to him knew about it, one of his closest friends, Rolling Stones Keith Richards was one of the few that back in the 60’s and the 70’s that Preston trusted with the secret, Richards talks about it in his autobiography “Life”. Billy Preston’s contributions and influence in music are immense, watch the video bellow of Preston with  The Beatles in the 1969 rooftop performance of “Get Back” and his performance of “My Sweet Lord” at the Concert For George Tribute in 2003.

Remembering Billy Preston in pictures

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Listen to some of Billy Preston’s best songs and collaborations compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify

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