Tuesday, June 06, 2006
RIP Billy Preston
I have learned that R&B/pop organist/vocalist Billy Preston has died at age 59 after a long illness. Preston will forever be known in rock history for his work with the Beatles (where he was referred to as the "Fifth Beatle"), especially on the hit "Get Back," and with the Rolling Stones. His instrumental and vocal hits of the '70s found Preston ranging from wonky R&B instrumentals such as "Outa-Space" (featured here, a #1 R&B hit from 1973) and "Space Race" (another hit from '73, also known as the "halftime" song from American Bandstand, for which Preston also performed the theme in the early '70s; in case your memory isn't jogged by the reference alone, the "halftime" song was the part of the show where Dick Clark sat in the bleachers with the audience, who swayed along to the song while Dick told viewers what to expect in the second half of the show) to rollicking vocal numbers like "Will It Go Round In Circles" and "Nothing From Nothing" to love ballads such as "With You I'm Born Again" and "You Are So Beautiful." Although the '80s, '90s and the twenty-first century were not as kind to Billy, with medical and legal setbacks scattered throughout, Preston's sideman pedigree and recordings show an artist of unlimited creativity and technical skill. May he rest in peace.