[Slowhand] Billy Preston gossip item

Marlene marlene1115 at comcast.net
Sun Apr 2 15:27:27 EDT 2006

Sad news about Billy Preston (if you can believe a foxnews.com gossip column).



Billy Preston was always considered the real 'fifth Beatle.' He was drafted to play keyboards on the Beatles' later sessions and is prominently featured on their 1969 hit, "Get Back."

In the early 1970s, Billy had two huge No. 1 hits of his own, "Nothing from Nothing" and "Will It Go 'Round in Circles." He played on The Concert for Bangladesh, wrote the Joe Cocker hit "You Are So Beautiful" and had one more hit, "With You I'm Born Again."

Like a lot of musicians, though, Billy could not rise above drug addiction. It wreaked havoc on his health, prompting a kidney transplant. But his body rejected the kidney, forcing Preston into a life on dialysis.

Three years ago, he decided to leave Los Angeles - where his demons were plentiful - for Scottsdale, Ariz. His business manager, Joyce Moore, lived there with her husband, Billy's old friend, "Soul Man" Sam Moore. Plus, Preston would get four-star medical care at the Mayo Clinic.

Billy was so happy with his life in Arizona, his renewed health and his still-active career that he gave Joyce Moore his durable medical power of attorney in case something happened to him. He was quite clear about not wanting any members of his extended family or half-siblings to be in charge of his life. I know this because we spoke about it often. It was a little like "Million Dollar Baby": He did not want one of those bedside hospital scenes.

This morning, a judge in Maricopa County, Ariz., is going to have to deal with the future of Billy Preston. The great musician fell into a semi-coma on Nov. 21 after being unable to resist taking drugs while receiving dialysis. Moore responded by doing what Preston instructed: getting him the best health care, with no family.

Joyce Moore made sure the people who did mean something to Billy knew about his condition. I will tell you something no one knows: Eric Clapton flew at Christmastime from his home in the United Kingdom to Arizona and spent two days at Preston's side. Music is played constantly in his room. Special therapy was developed for his fingers in case he awoke from his drifting sleep.

But now, like the family in "Million Dollar Baby," the relatives have descended. They want conservatorship of Preston, access to his finances and the right to move him from his top-notch health care facility back to Los Angeles. They do not seem to care about their half-brother's wishes. Two weeks ago, in Los Angeles Superior Court, they failed to tell a judge that a durable medical power of attorney existed. By omitting certain facts, Preston's sisters - represented by one of their sons - managed to achieve temporary custodianship.

Earlier this week, an email went out over the Internet from Preston's half-sister Lettie, accusing Moore of hijacking her brother. I can't quote from it because of potential libel issues. Consequently, this column received a number of phone calls from people in the music world, wanting to know what was going on. This is my answer.

Twice last year, I had the privilege of watching Billy Preston perform. I wrote about it here. One time was at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. The other time was at the Atlantis Hotel in the Bahamas. On each occasion he was in his element, smiling, happy and alive. He credited his renaissance to his manager, who'd driven him three times a week at 6 a.m. to dialysis treatments. Not only that: Billy had reconnected with Sam, an old friend, and that had been a significant change for the better in his life. He was surrounded by good people, and flourished because of it.

The judge in Maricopa County will have to weigh the desires of an estranged family, perhaps feeling a lot of guilt or embarrassment, with those of a patient who can no longer speak. But Billy Preston was highly communicative until the day he became ill, and was incredibly specific about leaving instructions. I can only hope his positions are honored today. Otherwise, nothing from nothing will leave nothing.

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