I grew up watching Billy Preston on shows like "Midnight Special" and "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert" and thought he was the coolest! This clip has been called the best performance in the worse movie ever made. And although there might be more tasteful videos to be grabbed from YouTube that eulogize Preston more appropriately, this one sure is a lot of nutty fun! (And PAPER appropriate).
Preston passed away this week at the age of 59 from kidney-related aliments. Born in Houston but raised in L.A., he was playing the keyboard by age 3 and performing with gospel legend Mahalia Jackson when he was only 10! But he is most famous for his work with the Fab Four. According to the LA Times obit:
In the early 1960s, (Preston) toured with Ray Charles and Little Richard and, while at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, met a young British act called the Beatles. At the end of the decade, it would be his work with the Fab Four that made for Preston's most memorable career moment.
George Harrison, the band's lead guitarist, invited Preston to sit in during the making of "Let It Be," the album and sour documentary film that found the group splintering badly. Harrison would later say that Preston's presence was one of the few sources of positive energy during that time and that by merely being in the room he probably prevented the Beatles from walking out on one another.
The label on the single of "Get Back" reads "The Beatles With Billy Preston," marking the only time anyone besides the four members was given a credit on a Beatles single. That's one of the reasons some observers called Preston the "fifth Beatle."
.... With his amiable personality, toothy grin and towering Afro, Preston became a well-known character in the 1960s and '70s rock scene and a coveted player in the studio and onstage.
Elton John also praised Preston as a master of the organ and piano: "He was one of my true inspirations, one of the greatest keyboard players of all time and not too shabby a vocalist, either."
Preston had a stunning career odyssey that again and again put him in the same room with music history. He was there during the "Let It Be" session with the Beatles and not only made memorable keyboard contributions to "Get Back," but joined them in a London rooftop concert that would turn out to be the iconic band's final live performance.
"Musically, my favorite moment was on the roof for 'Let It Be,' " Preston told the Chicago Sun-Times in a 2004 interview.
Preston was also in studio sessions for Sly & the Family Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On," Dylan's "Blood on the Tracks," Franklin's "Young, Gifted and Black" and the Stones epic "Exile on Main Street."
Last year, he left his bed to record a clavinet sequence for a Red Hot Chili Peppers song called "Warlock," which appears on that Los Angeles band's new album, "Stadium Arcadium," which reached No. 1 on the U.S. pop charts last month. He also lent a gospel organ sound to Neil Diamond's most recent album, "12 Songs."
Rest in Peace Billy Preston. Say hi to John and George for us!