[Slowhand] RIP Billy Preston ;-(

Lauren Blatt llrrbb4 at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 6 15:59:24 EDT 2006

Billy Preston dies at 59

Updated 6/6/2006 2:06 PM ETPHOENIX (AP) — Billy
Preston, the exuberant keyboardist who landed dream
gigs with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and
enjoyed his own series of hit singles, including Outta
Space and Nothing From Nothing, died Tuesday at 59.
Preston's longtime manager, Joyce Moore, said Preston
had been in a coma since November in a care facility
and was taken to a hospital in Scottsdale Saturday
after his condition deteriorated.

"He had a very, very beautiful last few hours and a
really beautiful passing," Moore said by telephone
from Germany. "He went home good."

Preston had battled chronic kidney failure, and he
received a kidney transplant in 2002. But the kidney
failed and he has been on dialysis ever since, Moore
said earlier this year.

Known for his big smile and towering Afro, Preston was
a teen prodigy on the piano and organ, and lent his
gospel-tinged touch to classics such as the Beatles'
Get Back and the Stones' Can't You Hear Me Knocking?

He broke out as a solo artist in the 1970s, winning a
best instrumental Grammy in 1973 for Outta Space, and
scoring other hits with Will It Go 'Round In
Circles,Nothing From Nothing and With You I'm Born
Again, a duet with Syreeta Wright.

He also wrote Joe Cocker's weeper, You Are So
Beautiful, and co-wrote with Quincy Jones the score
for 1970 movie They Call Me Mr. Tibbs. Other
achievements included being a musical guest on the
1975 debut of Saturday Night Live, and having a song
named after him by Miles Davis. Among his film
credits: Blues Brothers 2000 and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely
Hearts Club Band.

Preston's partnership with the Beatles began in early
1969 when friend George Harrison recruited him to play
on Let It Be, a back-to-basics film and record project
that nearly broke down because of feuding among band
members. Harrison himself quit at one point, walking
out on camera after arguing with Paul McCartney.

Preston not only inspired the Beatles to get along —
Harrison likened his effect to a feuding family
staying on its best behavior in front of a guest — but
contributed a light, bluesy solo to Get Back,
performing the song with the band on its legendary
"roof top" concert, the last time the Beatles played
live. He was one of many sometimes labeled "The Fifth

Preston remained close to Harrison and performed at
Harrison's all-star charity event, The Concert for
Bangladesh and at the Concert for George, a tribute to
Harrison, who died of cancer in 2001. He played on
solo records by Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon.

Preston also toured and recorded extensively with the
Rolling Stones, playing on such classic albums as
Sticky Fingers and Exile on Main Street. In the
mid-'70s, he parted from the Stones, reportedly
unhappy over not getting proper credit for Melody and
other songs. He reunited with the band in 1997 on its
Bridges to Babylon record.

His sessions credits included Aretha Franklin's Young,
Gifted and Black, Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and
Sly and Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On, three
of the most acclaimed albums of the past 35 years.

The Houston native earned his performance chops at age
10 playing the keyboard for gospel singer Mahalia
Jackson, and at 12 portraying a young W. C. Handy in
the 1958 biopic St. Louis Blues. He toured with
mentors and fellow piano greats Ray Charles and Little
Richard in the early 1960s, first encountering the
Beatles while on the road in Germany.

Preston had numerous personal troubles in recent
years. In 1992, he was given a suspended jail
sentence, but ordered incarcerated for nine months at
a drug rehabilitation center for his no-contest pleas
to cocaine and assault charges. Five years later, he
was sentenced to three years in prison for violating
probation. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to insurance
fraud and agreed to testify against other defendants
in an alleged scam that netted about $1 million.

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