Remembering Billy Preston: 5 Stellar Collaborations

By Scott Bernstein Jun 6, 2019 1:48 pm PDT

The rock world lost one of its greatest keyboardists on this date in 2006 when Billy Preston died. The 59-year-old Texan collaborated with a who’s who’s of storied musicians over the course of his illustrious career. In addition, he was a talented songwriter who scored a number of hits for himself and other artists with his songs.

This week’s Throwback Thursday features five standout collaborations from Billy’s time on earth. Included within are videos of his time with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and more. Let’s get down to it:

Billy Preston & The Beatles – Don’t Let Me Down

Preston is perhaps best known for his work with The Beatles. One of a handful of figures referred to as the “Fifth Beatle,” Billy struck up a friendship with the Fab Four before they hit it big and was recruited by the band to contribute to the sessions that yielded Let It Be. On January 30, 1969 Billy Preston was on keys for The Beatles’ final performance, which took place on the roof of the band’s Apple Corps headquarters in London. Billy’s work during “Don’t Let Me Down” is a highlight of the set.

Billy Preston & The Rolling Stones – Outa-Space

While Preston’s time with The Beatles gets plenty of attention, he actually had a longer tenure as touring keyboardist for The Rolling Stones. Billy was the primary keyboardist for The Stones between 1973 and 1977. He also contributed to a handful of LPs including Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main St. The keyboardist was spotlighted during 1975 and 1976 Stones concerts by leading the group through two songs, one of which was his 1971 instrumental “Outa-Space.” Video of The Stones teaming with Preston on “Outa-Space” at The Forum in Los Angeles from 1975 can be viewed above.

Billy Preston & Ray Charles – Agent Double-O-Soul

In 1967, Billy Preston was backed by a band that included Ray Charles on piano during an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Preston led the group through “Agent Double-O-Soul,” a song that Edwin Starr scored a hit with in 1965.

Billy Preston & Nat King Cole – Blueberry Hill

Billy Preston was a child prodigy on the keys and in 1957 was already making appearances on television. That year, Preston was a guest on The Nat King Cole Show for a performance of Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill.” Billy and Nat King Cole swap turns playing organ and singing throughout.

Billy Preston With Eric Clapton & More – My Sweet Lord

On November 29, 2002 Billy Preston was one of many all-star performers who took part in the Concert For George, a musical celebration of The Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison that took place on the first anniversary of his death. Preston contributed to both “Isn’t It A Pity” and “My Sweet Lord” at the event, which was held at Royal Albert Hall in London. For Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” Billy was backed by a band that included musical director Eric Clapton, surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, slide guitarist Marc Mann and George’s son Dhani Harrison.

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