Billy Preston began playing piano while sitting on his mother’s lap at age three, and he was considered something of a prodigy on piano and organ. By the age of ten he was performing in the bands of gospel singers Mahalia Jackson and James Cleveland. At age 12 he appeared in the 1958 Paramount Pictures film St. Louis Blues, portraying blues composer W.C. Handy as a young man. In the 1960s he performed with Little Richard and Ray Charles. He also began a recording career as a solo artist with the 1965 album The Most Exciting Organ Ever. He was also a regular on the mid sixties ABC -TV musical variety series SHINDIG, a member show’s house band.
Also referred to as “The Fifth Beatle” in their collaboration with Preston on the single, “Get Back”.Â He first met the Beatles while on tour with Little Richard’s band in 1962.Â The Washington Post explained their subsequent meeting:
They’d hook up again in 1969, when The Beatles were about to break up while recording the last album they released, Let It Be (they would later record Abbey Road, which was released prior to Let It Be). George Harrison, always Preston’s best Beatles buddy, had quit and walked out of the studio and gone to a Ray Charles concert in London, where Preston was playing organ. Harrison brought Preston back to the studio, where his keen musicianship and gregarious personality temporarily calmed the tension.
In bootlegged “Let It Be” session tapes, one can hear several heated arguments between John Lennon and Paul McCartney about making Preston a group member (Lennon was all for it) McCartney said there is no point since the group was near its end anyway. It would have made Preston officially “the fifth Beatle,” a title he was not loath to exploit over the next three decades. Perhaps as consolation, “Get Back,” the only Beatles single (depending on which chart you believe) to enter the British charts at No.1, was credited to “the Beatles with Billy Preston”Â the one and only time the band shared the spotlight with a sideman. Preston also accompanied the Beatles during their famous rooftop gig in London, the Beatles’ last public performance.
He went on to play on their 1970 Let It Be album and on the songs “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Something”, from 1969’s Abbey Road.
[This is an instrumental.Â There are no lyrics.]