Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Billy Preston

Billy Preston, known affectionately as the fifth Beatle, has died at age 59 from chronic kidney failure. According to reports, he had been in a coma since November 2005.

Billy was an amazing keyboard player and successful songwriter, penning tunes for himself and others, such as You Are So Beautiful, recorded by Joe Cocker. When he was only ten years old, he played with gospel music legend, Mahalia Jackson. In his early twenties he performed with such R&B pioneers as Little Richard and Ray Charles.

He did a lot of work with The Beatles and made invaluable contributions to Let It Be, Abbey Road and the White Album. George Harrison is the one responsible for naming Billy "the fifth Beatle". When Apple Records was formed, The Beatles signed him and released what is my own absolute Billy Preston record, That's The Way God Planned It, and follow-up with Encouraging Words. Both songs featured contributions from George.

In 1971, he was signed to A&M Records, the label I was with as Vice-President of A&R, and he was launched into superstardom. He released several albums including I Wrote A Simple Song, Music Is My Life and Everybody Likes Some Kind Of Music. From these albums came such mega-hits as Outa Space, Will It Go Round In Circles, Space Race, Nothing From Nothing, Struttin', and more. His final single released on Motown in 1982 was called I'm Never Gonna Say Goodbye.

Throughout his high profile career, he continued to perform on various recording sessions for name arsists such as Aretha Franklin, Sly & The Family Stone and Quincy Jones. He was even featured on the Red Hot Chili Peppers album, Stadium Arcadium.

I'm very sad to say so long to Billy; I loved his much a lot. And I'll play some of Billy'l great songs in the 4th hour of this week's show on Treasure Island Oldies.