The Washington Post explained their subsequent meeting:. They'd hook up again in , 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 , a friend of Preston, had quit, 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. Preston is one of several people referred to as the " Fifth Beatle ". At one point during the Get Back sessions , John Lennon proposed the idea of having him join the band to which Paul McCartney countered that it was difficult enough reaching agreements with four. Preston also accompanied the band on electric piano for its rooftop concert , the group's final public appearance.
The credit was bestowed by the Beatles to reflect the extent of Preston's presence on the track; his electric piano is prominent throughout and he plays an extended solo. In , he appeared as Sgt. Pepper in Robert Stigwood 's film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band , which was based on the Beatles' album of the same name , and sang and danced to "Get Back" as the penultimate song.
His relationship with Harrison continued after the Beatles' break-up in ; Preston was the first artist to record Harrison's subsequent international hit " My Sweet Lord ", on his album Encouraging Words , which Harrison co-produced with him. He appeared on several of Harrison's s solo albums, starting with All Things Must Pass ; made a notable contribution to the Concert for Bangladesh , the Harrison-organized charity benefit; performed with the ex-Beatle on his tour of North America ; and played at the Concert for George tribute, held at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Preston also worked on solo releases by Lennon and Ringo Starr. The previous year, he contributed to another hit single when Stephen Stills asked to use Preston's phrase "if you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with ", a song on Stills' self-titled debut solo album. Each of the three singles sold in excess of 1 million copies. From , Preston played keyboards including piano, organ, clavinet and various synthesizers for the Rolling Stones , sometimes alongside pianists Nicky Hopkins and Ian Stewart , on their albums Sticky Fingers , Exile on Main St.
As the band's primary touring keyboardist from to , he also performed as a support act with his own band including Mick Taylor on guitar on their European tour. In , along with Bruce Fisher , one of his regular songwriting collaborators in the s, he composed one of Joe Cocker's biggest hits, " You Are So Beautiful ".
On October 11, , he was the first musical guest on Saturday Night Live ' s series premiere episode. Although two of his songs were included in the band's and live sets, the Stones and Preston parted company in , mainly due to a disagreement over money.
Preston's career lost momentum in the s due to his cocaine and alcohol addictions. He served as musical director for Nightlife , a late-night talk show hosted by David Brenner that lasted one season from to Preston toured with Eric Clapton , recorded with Gary Walker, one of the vocalists in his Los Angeles-based band, and worked with a wide range of other artists.
He also toured with Ringo Starr , appearing on his live album. He was invited to become a member of The Band in , after the death of piano player Stan Szelest. He performed on tour with the group,  but the sentencing from his cocaine and sexual assault charges in ended the collaboration.
The same year he sang and played synthesizer in the film Blues Brothers , as part of the Louisiana Gator Boys supergroup. On November 29, , while touring and fighting his own health problems, Preston received the news that George Harrison had died, having long suffered from throat cancer. Preston's performance of "My Sweet Lord" received critical acclaim. Additionally, he sang " Isn't It a Pity ", provided backing vocals on most of the other songs, and played the Hammond organ for the show.
In March , he appeared on the American Idol fourth season finale. Although very ill by this point, he jumped out of his bed after hearing a tape of the song given to him by the band, recorded his part, and went back to bed. In late , Preston made his last public performance, in Los Angeles, to publicize the re-release of the documentary film The Concert for Bangladesh. Preston lived in London for a time,  possibly around —, but he moved back to the US sometime in the early s.
Billy Preston was brought up in the African-American gospel tradition; he was a committed Christian throughout his life and he openly expressed his faith in works such as his s hit " That's the Way God Planned It ". Preston was also deeply attached to his mother, for whom he wrote the song that became his best-known composition, " You Are So Beautiful ".
Although the details did not become fully known to the general public until after his death, Preston struggled throughout his life to cope with his homosexuality , and the lasting effects of the traumatic sexual abuse he suffered as a boy.
Although his sexual orientation became known to friends and associates in the music world such as Keith Richards , Preston did not publicly come out as gay until just before he died. This was reportedly partly because he felt that it conflicted with his deeply held religious beliefs and his lifelong association with the church, so he remained " in the closet " until shortly before his death.
Keith Richards' autobiography, Life ,    mentions Billy Preston's struggles with his sexuality. In an interview for a BBC Radio 4 documentary on his life and career, Preston's manager Joyce Moore revealed that after she began handling his affairs, Preston opened up to her about the lifelong trauma he had suffered as the result of being sexually abused as a boy. Preston told Moore that at about the age of nine, after he and his mother moved to Los Angeles from Houston to perform in a touring production of Amos 'n' Andy , he was repeatedly abused by the touring company's pianist.
When Preston told his mother about the abuse, she did not believe him, and failed to protect him. At this time Preston had become close friends with musician Sly Stone , and made many contributions to Stone's recordings of the period including the landmark album There's a Riot Goin' On. According to Moore, Preston was devastated when he came home one day to find Stone in bed with Silva who later famously married Stone on stage at Madison Square Garden.
According to Moore, Silva's affair with Stone was the trigger that led Preston to stop having relationships with women. It was after this incident that he began abusing cocaine and having sex with men, and Moore has stated that she saw his drug abuse as his way of coping with the internal conflicts he felt about his sexual urges.
In , Preston checked into a drug rehabilitation program to treat his addictions. While on probation for a drunk driving conviction in August ,  Preston was arrested for sexually assaulting a year-old Mexican boy, after picking him up at a gathering point for day laborers. He entered no-contest pleas to the cocaine and assault charges. The sex charges which included misdemeanor charges of child molestation and exhibiting pornographic material to a minor were dismissed. In , Preston was sentenced to 30 days in jail for violating his probation on a drunk driving conviction.
In , Preston was sentenced to three years in a California prison for cocaine possession in violation of his probation. The probation and jail time ran concurrent with his cocaine possession conviction. Preston had suffered kidney disease in his later years, brought on by his hypertension. He received a kidney transplant in , but his health continued to deteriorate. He had voluntarily entered a drug rehabilitation clinic in Malibu, California , at the suggestion of guitarist Is'real Benton, and suffered pericarditis there, leading to respiratory failure that left him in a coma from November 21, Ringo Starr, speaking during the rehearsals for the Concert for George in , called Preston one of the greatest Hammond players of all time.
You can spot his playing a mile off, whether it's the Hammond organ, the Fender Rhodes or the piano. He had such a spiritual touch to his technique, it made him completely unique. Preston was nominated for nine Grammy Awards and won two.
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