TIMELINE – BILLY PRESTON

TIMELINE is an article in NO SKIPS NO SCRATCHES that capsulizes lives of incredibly gifted music talents because their accomplishments are much too vast to expound on without the article being a mile long.  Billy Preston is one such talent.  His organ and piano playing, his heartfelt singing and his all-out showmanship is what implanted Billy Preston in the hearts of millions of music lovers all over the world.  He was especially appreciated to the nth degree by the heavyweight music artists he performed with; a countless legion of the best of the best.  Everybody who was anybody wanted this masterful organist/piano playing genius on their project and I’m sure he never, ever disappointed.  Let’s take a bulletpoint stroll through the life of Billy Preston then just enjoy some select cuts from his archive of performances.  One of my absolute favorites is a song that got very little airplay, “I Wrote A Simple Song.”  Any artist can relate to the struggle between their artistry and what the business side deems as commercially pleasing; this song addresses this struggle while simultaneously being one of Billy’s prettiest songs.  My other fav is the classic, “That’s The Way God Planned It.”  I love, love, love this song!  Billy always found a way to put his religious convictions on his sleeve even though he sometimes battled with them.  All this makes for a great story but we’re not gonna do all the work for you.  In TIMELINE, you have to fill in the blanks and read between the lines but trust me, you’ll be full and completely satisfied by the time you listen to the last video.  Enjoy this musical peek at the life of Billy Preston.

  • Billy Preston was born William Everette Preston in Houston, Texas in 1946.
  • Billy’s family moved to L.A.  when he was 3 years old; that’s when he started playing piano.
  • By age 10, he was   playing organ with Gospel    greats, Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland and Andrae Crouch.  He’s now come to be known as a child prodigy.
  • At age 11, Billy plays with Nat King Cole as a guest on Nat’s nationally televised TV Show.
  • At age 12, Billy plays  the young W.C. Handy in the movie, St. Louis Blues, which starred Nat King Cole as the grown up W.C. Handy.
  • 1962, Billy Preston  is hired as organist in Little Richard’s band.
  • 1963 saw Preston playing on Sam Cooke’s album, Night Beat and he released his own debut album, “16 Year Old Soul,” on Sam Cooke’s label SAR Records.
  • 1965, Billy was organist in the House Band for TV music show, Shindig, with  numerous spotlighted performances singing,  dancing and playing his instrument.
  • Billy joined Ray Charles’ band in 1967.
  • The Beatles invite Billy  to play on their albums, Abbey Road  and Let It Be.  He would later be called the 5th Beatle because of   his tremendous contribution and the distinction of being one of two who  ever recorded with the Fab Four.
  • 1969, he recorded his album, That’s The Way God Planned It, on the Beatle’s Apple Records label.
  • 1974, Jazz Trumpeter, Miles Davis, titled one of his songs, “Billy Preston,” to honor him.
  • 1974, “You Are So Beautiful,” written  by Billy Preston and Beach Boys’ drummer, Dennis Wilson, is released by Billy and Joe CockerCocker’s version goes on to reach #5 on Billboard in ’75.
  • Billy teams up with Stevie Wonder’s ex-wife, Syreeta Wright, and strikes gold on the 1980 hit, “With You I’m Born Again.”
  • 1991, Billy is arrested for insurance fraud,  treated for alcohol and cocaine addiction and arrested for sexually  assaulting  a 16 year old boy.
  • Billy plays the role of Choir Organist on the ’98 UPN sitcom, Good NewsDJ Rogers and Ali Ollie Woodson  of the Temptations are members  of the TV Choir.
  •  Over the years Billy released 23 secular albums, 8 Gospel albums  and played on hundreds and hundreds of recording sessions with the best in the music biz like: Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, Beatles, Sly & The Family Stone, Aretha Franklin,  Barbara Streisand, Donnie McClurkin, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Donnie, Luther Vandross, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell and on and on…
  • Music Genius, Billy Preston died June 6, 2006 of kidney failure and other complications brought on by substance abuse.  Billy was 59 years old at the time of his passing.

 

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