Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Goodbye, Billy Preston
“Let It Be” session man dies at age 59
One of Rock's greatest keyboardists and session men, Billy Preston, died yesterday at age 59. While Preston played with many famous artists on some of Rock's biggest albums, even having a decent solo career with hits like, "Nothing from Nothing" and "You Are So Beautiful," Preston will always be linked to his most famous gig as side musician for the Beatles during their "Let It Be" sessions and movie.
5:56 pm ET ·
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Preston has been credited by the Beatles as the person who made "Let It Be" not only possible, but actually enjoyable. At that point in their career, the Beatles could barely stand being in the same room together, let alone play together. Yet somehow, bringing in Preston helped the band gel once more and create some of the best music of their later career. That's Preston doing the famous keyboard solo in "Get Back" and the soulful organ of "Don't Let Me Down." So grateful were the Beatles for Preston's presence, they made him one of the first artists they signed to their fledging Apple records label.
Preston also has the prestigious place in Rock history to be one of the few musicians to have recorded with both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
Though he continued to work both as a session musician and solo artist during the 70's and 80's, drug addiction ultimately destroyed his career. He came back in the 90's and continued to work all the way up to this year, appearing on both the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Neil Diamond's latest releases. Preston died from complications from a kidney transplant earlier this year.
Ironically I happened to be listening to Let It Be just after I learned of Preston's death, purely by accident. I can't imagine the album without his presence - he has left a permanent mark on the Rock world.