I’m pretty sure that the first time I became aware of Billy Preston was on the Shindig tv program. That would have been around 1965. A few years later, I found him playing in a hotel bar in Puerto Rico while I was on a vacation with my family. It was my up close and personal moment with this legendary musician.
The next time I heard about Billy Preston, he was playing with The Beatles. I doesn’t get any bigger than that, and I will always marvel at the memory of meeting him so unexpectedly in San Juan. I followed his career from that point on, through all its ups and down. One of my fondest memories is seeing him bring the house down with his performance of "That’s the Way God Planned It" at George Harrison’s Bangladesh concert. But that was merely one moment in a career that shined like diamonds. Billy didn’t just play that beautiful electric piano solo on "Get Back". He played on records by the Stones, Ray Charles, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and dozens of other great artists.
Billy Preston died today. He was fifty-nine years old. A star has gone out in the sky.