Billy Preston
* September 02, 1946 † June 06, 2006
United States
Solo Artist
The great singer-songwriter and performer Billy Preston, the real "Fifth Beatle" died on Jun 6, 2006 after a long illness as a result of malignant hypertension that resulted in kidney failure and other complications. As a result of a medical insult he'd been in a deep coma since November 21, 2005 but was still struggling to recover. He died at Shea Scottsdale Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona where he'd lived for the last couple of years.

Billy Preston was called the Fifth Beatle because he played keyboards on Let it Be, The White Album and Abbey Road. He also played on the Rolling Stones's hit song Miss You, and often played with Eric Clapton. He also did the organ work on Sly & the Family Stone's greatest hits. Preston's own hits included "Nothing from Nothing," "Will it Go Round in Circles," and "You Are So Beautiful," which Joe Cocker turned into an international hit.

Billy Preston was actually mentored by Ray Charles, and acts like Little Richard, Mahalia Jackson, and James Cleveland had a huge impact on him at a young age. In the early 60s, Billy went to Europe with Little Richard who playing in Hamburg. The Beatles were the opening act and as the story goes he was the one who made sure they got fed.

Billy Preston's friendship with them lasted through the 1960s and he was the first act signed to Apple Records thanks to George Harrison. The resulting album is called "That's the Way God Planned It." In 1971, Preston played in "The Concert for Bangla Desh." Last year, in one of his final appearances, he performed at a renuion in Los Angeles for the release of the Bangla Desh DVD with Ringo and Harrison's son Dhani on guitar.

More recently, Billy Preston can be heard on the latest albums by Neil Diamond and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He's also featured on the Starbucks soul album "Believe to My Soul" featuring Mavis Staples and Ann Peebles.

Biography
Billy Preston's career has spanned five decades, starting as a child prodigy playing the movie role of young W.C. Handy and then playing organ for the likes of Ray Charles and Little Richard. His accomplishments are highlighted by a string of hits, including collaborating with some of the most celebrated names in the music industry, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, The Jackson Five, Sly and the Family Stone, Barbara Streisand, Sammy Davis Jr., Quincy Jones and perhaps the most famous of all, The Beatles.

Billy's relationship with The Beatles led to his signing with Apple Records in the 60's. Billy is widely acknowledged as the "Fifth Beatle" having been the only party to ever hand his name included in the label credits of the "Let It Be" and the "Abbey Road" albums as well as the landmark "White Album". Billy also appeared with them in the films "The Complete Beatles" and "Let It Be" as well as performing as part of them during their historic rooftop final concert.

In the late '60s Billy worked with John Lennon and Yoko Ono on their solo "Plastic Ono Band" album as well as Ringo Starr's solo single "Oh My My" and he participated in George Harrison's American Tour. In addition Billy Preston was a leading character in the movie "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" also featuring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees, performing a stunning version of "Get Back".

Preston's name and fame were solidified as a solo artist when he scored a string of Number 1 hit singles including the Grammy winning "Outta Space", "Will It Go Round In Circles", "Nothing From Nothing" and "Space Race".

A prolific writer, Billy Preston penned the multi-platinum standard "You Are So Beautiful" which was performed by his friend Joe Cocker. He also wrote the title songs for a series of box office champions including "Never Gonna Say Goodbye" "Fast Break" and "O'Hara's Wide". The title song from "Fast Break" became a Preston classic hit when performed as a duet with the late Syreeta Wright. Billy also co-wrote the score for the Sidney Poitier movie "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs" with Quincy Jones.

In recent years Billy Preston was the first black musical director of a late night television show "Nightlife" starring David Brenner, was a regular on the UPN series "Good News" and he made a cameo appearance in "Blues Brothers 2000" as part of the super group that included Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood and B.B. King among others. Billy's participation in the tribute concert "Concert for George Harrison" at Royal Albert Hall and his performance of "My Sweet Lord" has received critical acclaim. Billy recorded on the last album his mentor Ray Charles was to record, toured with The Funk Brothers and Stevie Winwood in Europe in early 2004 and then hit the road, touring extensively and garnering rave reviews for his performances with his dear friend Eric Clapton through Europe and North America. Billy's keyboard dominance was highlighted with the release of the "Let It Be--Naked" album issue.

With his extensive touring and studio involvement Billy Preston has found the time to create special project tribute to his dear friends The Beatles. He's even penned two new songs, one in tribute to George Harrison and another to all four of the fab fellows, "John, Paul, George and Ringo". This project along with a historic DVD companion is due for a fall 2004 release with special appearances and bonuses for Beatles fans.
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