Billy Preston, 1946-2006

By June 10, 2006General

There was so much going on this week on the legislative front that we ran out of time to commemorate the passing of a true legend, keyboardist Billy Preston, who died earlier this week at the age of 59 after a long illness. If you can tell a man by the company he keeps, then Billy Preston was truly great. He played with the greatest bands and musicians of the era, rock royalty. These include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, among many, many others.

He was the king of the Hammond B3 organ, his omnipresent sound on scores of classic tracks and albums. He burst onto the scene publicly as part of George Harrison’s “Concert for Bangladesh”, but by then he had already earned his chops in the rock world, having been a central part of the Beatles’ “Let it Be”, “Abbey Road” and “The White Album” as well as on the Rolling Stones’ “Sticky Fingers”. Most recently, he played on the Ray Charles CD of duets, “Genius Loves Company.” Charles, who once touted Preston as his successor can be heard on that CD introducing a solo by his protégé saying simply, “Mr. Preston….” He was an icon.

Here’s a link to a pretty good story about him by Richard Harrington of the Washington Post and here’s a link to his All Music entry, including his discography, list of songs, and a long and impressive exhaustive list of credits.

The music scene will be much quieter without Billy Preston. Thankfully, he has left us with much great music to entertain us for many years to come.