Memorial: Billy Preston

Rest In Peace “Fifth Beatle”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Everett Preston (September 9, 1946 – June 6, 2006) was an American soul musician from Houston, Texas, raised mostly in Los Angeles, California. He began playing piano while sitting on his mother’s lap at age three. Preston collaborated with some of the greatest names in the music industry, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Little Richard, Ray Charles, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, Quincy Jones, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. One of only two non-Beatles to receive a credit on a Beatles single, he played the electric piano on “Get Back” during the band’s rooftop concert in 1969. He is one of several people sometimes credited as the “Fifth Beatle”.


Preston had battled kidney disease in his later years. Although he received a kidney transplant in 2002, his health continued to deteriorate. He died on June 6, 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona, of complications of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications. He had been in a coma since November 21, 2005.

Preston was co-writer of the song “You Are So Beautiful” made famous by Joe Cocker.
Miles Davis titled a song “Billy Preston” in his honour.
He was the first artist to enter the UK Singles Chart at number one with his debut playing keys on The Beatles’ “Get Back”.
He appeared as Sgt. Pepper in the film version of the Beatles album and had a cameo appearance in the film “Blues Brothers 2000”.
With Janis Ian, he was the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

Selected discography

Billboard Pop Singles Chart (US)
1969 – #62 “That’s the Way God Planned It”
1972 – #77 “I Wrote a Simple Song”
1972 – #2 “Outta-Space” (Grammy Award winner)
1972 – #50 “Slaughter”
1972 – #62 “That’s the Way God Planned It” {re-release}
1973 – #1 “Will It Go Round in Circles”
1973 – #4 “Space Race”
1974 – #1 “Nothing from Nothing”
1974 – #48 “You’re So Unique”
1975 – #71 “Fancy Lady”
1975 – #22 “Struttin'”
1978 – #86 “Get Back”
1980 – #4 “With You I’m Born Again” (duet with Syreeta Wright)
1980 – #52 “One More Time For Love”
1980 – #88 “I’m Never Gonna Say Goodbye”

Solo albums (not including Gospel albums)

(1965) The Most Exciting Organ Ever
(1966) The Wildest Organ In Town
(1969) That’s The Way God Planned It
(1970) Encouraging Words
(1971) I Wrote A Simple Song
(1972) Music Is My life
(1973) Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music
(1974) Live European Tour 1973
(1974) The Kids and Me
(1975) It’s My Pleasure
(1976) Billy Preston
(1977) A Whole New Thing
(1979) Late At Night
(1981) The Way I Am
(1982) Pressin’ On
(1984) On The Air
(1986) You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down
(1995) Billy’s Back

As a guest/session performer

(1970) Let It Be — including “Get Back”, List of Number 1 singles from the 1960s (UK) (The Beatles)
(1970) All Things Must Pass (George Harrison)
(1970) John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, piano on “God” (John Lennon)
(1971) Sticky Fingers (Rolling Stones)
(1971) The Concert for Bangla Desh (George Harrison And Friends)
(1971) There’s a Riot Goin’ On (Sly & the Family Stone)
(1972) Exile on Main Street (Rolling Stones)
(1973) Ringo, organ on “I’m The Greatest”
(1973) Goats Head Soup (Rolling Stones)
(1974) Goodnight Vienna, clavinet on the title track, electric piano on “Only You (And You Alone)”
(1974) It’s Only Rock’n Roll (Rolling Stones)
(1975) “You Are So Beautiful” (Joe Cocker’s biggest hit)
(1976) Thirty Three & 1/3 (George Harrison)
(1976) Black and Blue (Rolling Stones)
(1978) Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (also acted the part “Sgt. Pepper” in the film)
(1990) Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band (Billy plays keyboards and vocals)
(2001) Reptile (Eric Clapton)
(2001) One More Car One More Rider (Eric Clapton, live) –DVD includes live performance of Will It Go Round in Circles
(2003) Concert for George — including Isn’t It a Pity and My Sweet Lord
(2004) Me and Mr. Johnson (Eric Clapton) (also appears in the DVD companion Sessions for Robert J)
(2005) Choose Love (Ringo Starr)
(2005) The Concert for Bangladesh (George Harrison and Friends) (Re-mastered version & video)
(2006) Stadium Arcadium (Red Hot Chili Peppers) (on “Warlocks”)

Other Sites On The WWW

Encouraging Words

Posted in Billy Preston and tagged , , by with 4 comments.


  • -joe says:

    I had a reply yesterday on hearing of his death saying didn’t he have trouble with the law.

  • HART says:

    well, that wikipedia mentions a little trouble about the law .. I didn’t post the entire article above, just the birth/death and credits for posterity

    The 1980s were lean years for Preston. He was arrested and convicted for insurance fraud after setting fire to his own house in Los Angeles, and he was treated for alcohol and cocaine addictions. In 1991, he entered no-contest pleas to the cocaine and assault charges. He was sentenced to nine months at a drug rehabilitation center and three months of house arrest.

    Preston managed to conquer his problems in the early 1990s, and toured with Eric Clapton, and recorded with a wide range of artists.


    I believe I wrote to one of Mr. Billy Preston’s Fan Clubs some years ago and expressed to them about having some type of Program about Billy’s life while he was still alive. I think this was in the late 70’s or early 80’s. I still have their response to me. It was a sheet of paper; with some of his successes. It was very interesting, but not what I expected. I had always admired Bill’s music; in fact in the early 70’s when I was in the Navy I introduced a lot of the people to his music. That sheet of paper that was sent to me; after over 20 years, I still have it.

  • HART (1-800-HART) says:

    Sounds like a collectible Leonard … personally, I would probably laminate and keep it for another 20 years! Of course, I wouldn’t be HART if I didn’t ask

    is that something you can fax to my Toll-Free Fax line and feel comfortable sharing with everybody here at
    (i figure it never hurts to ask …) ..

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing!

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