Tuesday, June 6

RIP Billy Preston, 1946-2006


I'm saddened this evening to comment on the death of yet another notable musician. Keyboardist/singer/songwriter Billy Preston has died at the age of 59. He had been in a coma for some time as a result of a heart infection, ultimately passing away today. Preston had also long suffered from kidney failure.

Billy Preston was an iconic figure in the 1960s-70s, playing alongside Little Richard, Ray Charles, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Sly & the Family Stone, and The Rolling Stones (among others) as well as having his own successful solo career. He famously took part in the sessions that resulted in The Beatles' Let It Be album, and appears on the legendary Rooftop Concert (Jan. 30, 1969) that was posted here at C&T a while back.

Preston achieved stardom in his own right in the 1970s, with hit singles under his own name and performed by others. He co-wrote the Joe Cocker classic "You Are So Beautiful" and his own hits included "Will It Go 'Round in Circles", "Outa-Space", and "Nothing from Nothing". He also played the title role in the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie in 1978.

Preston struggled with personal demons in the 1980s, but seemed to have his life back on track since the early '90s. He even appears on the most recent Red Hot Chili Peppers album, playing clavinet on "Warlocks" from Stadium Arcadium. He will be missed very much. Here are a few of Preston's hits, several of which have been receiving regular play at my place as of late:

Billy Preston - Will It Go 'Round in Circles
Billy Preston - Nothing from Nothing
Billy Preston - Get Back
Billy Preston - Outa-Space [winner of 1973 Grammy for pop instrumental]

In addition, because it seems appropriate at the moment, here's another Preston tune. It's a bit out of context, but many of the lyrics are still applicable:

Billy Preston - I'm Really Gonna Miss You

Hats off to you, Billy. You made great music.

3 Comments:

Blogger Captain Phantasmo dot com said...

These guys need to stop dying.

Shitty, shitty deal...

Cheers.
Mike

3:07 AM

 
Anonymous Steve Deutsch said...

Nice one, Rich.
I got to work with Billy on 2 separate sessions for the "Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan" a few years ago. On the first day, Helen Baylor was the artist on the song "What Can I Do For You". It was a live date with full rhythm section, with an extended coda that Billy and Helen improvised together, each take unique, evolving, and utterly brilliant. Billy's technique on Hammond organ was so expressive. I only had an hour notice for our second date with the Sounds of Blackness, but enough time to run to Amoeba to get the vinyl box set of Bangla Desh, which featured both Billy and drummer of the day, Jim Keltner, who both graciously signed it for me with special messages. Billy was late that day, not unusual because he had kidney problems, but had also been in a traffic accident on the way to the studio! These last few years I had said many times that I thought Billy was the greatest musician I ever had the joy to work with. Everything he played was beautifully perfect. Sorry for the long reminiscence, I've been sad and wanted to share the story.

11:52 PM

 
Blogger Rich said...

Don't apologize -- great comment. Thanks for sharing that.

I hope people enjoyed this material. I've been listening to Billy since college and I hope people understand how much he should be appreciated.

12:35 AM

 

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