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Mon, 09.02.1946

Billy Preston, Versatile Musician born

Billy Preston

*Billy Preston was born on this date in1946. He was a Black musician and singer.

From Houston, Texas, he was raised in Los Angeles, California.  William Everett Preston got an early start in his career.  By age ten he was playing keyboards with Mahalia Jackson, and two years later, in 1958, he was featured in Hollywood's film bio of W.C. Handy, St. Louis Blues, as young Handy himself. Preston was a prodigy on organ and piano, recording during the early '60s for Vee-Jay and touring with Little Richard. He was a loose-limbed regular on the mid-'60s ABC TV series Shindig, proving his talent as both vocalist and pianist.

He built an enviable reputation as a session musician, even backing the Beatles on their Let It Be album.  With the Beatles, he played the electric piano on the Get Back Sessions in 1969 and is one of several people sometimes credited as the "Fifth Beatle".  He is the only person to receive label performance credit on any Beatles record.  That Beatles connection led to his break as a solo artist with his own Apple album, but it was his early-'70s soul smashes "Outa-Space" and the high-flying vocal "Will It Go Round in Circles" for A&M that put Preston on the permanent musical map. Sporting a large Afro and an omnipresent gap-toothed grin, Preston showed that his enduring gospel roots were never far removed from his joyous approach.

Preston collaborated with some of the greatest names in the music industry, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Little Richard, Ray Charles, George Harrison, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, Quincy Jones, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.  He continued to perform and record throughout the '80s, '90s, and 2000s until he fell into a coma caused by pericarditis late in 2005; sadly, he never regained consciousness and died on June 6, 2006.

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