While I’m less and less caring about who gets selected for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Performer category, I’ve become more and more interested in categories such as early influences and non-performers. I’m especially intrigued by the sideman category since Leon Russell was inducted in 2011. After all, he was a performer of some commercial success, but not enough to make it as a performer. But he played on a lot of albums for other artists and was inducted based on that.
The late Billy Preston is similarly situated. He had greater singles success than Russell, with songs such as Outa-Space, Will It Go Round in Circles, Space Race, and Nothing from Nothing, though less so with his albums. But he was well known as a session musician. “Preston collaborated with some of the greatest names in the music industry, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Band, Nat King Cole, Little Richard, Eric Burdon, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, George Harrison, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, King Curtis, Sammy Davis Jr., Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, Quincy Jones, Mick Jagger, Peter Frampton, Phyllis Hyman, Richie Sambora, Sly Stone, Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Norah Jones, and Ringo Starr.” Not to mention gospel great Mahalia Jackson. Both Russell and Preston played on the legendary Concert for Bangladesh.
The label on the “Get Back” single credits “The Beatles with Billy Preston”. Here’s the famed Beatles doing Get Back, live on the rooftop.
More Preston appearances:
Ray Charles & Norah Jones-Here We Go Again. Billy on organ.
John Lennon-God. Billy on piano.
Johnny Cash-Personal Jesus. Billy on piano.
Ringo Starr-I’m the Greatest. Billy on organ.
But probably my favorite piece is Billy at the organ on The Rolling Stones-I Got The Blues from the album Sticky Fingers.
So, on what would have been Billy Preston’s 65th birthday, I’m making a pitch for him to make it into the rock hall as a session musician.
Oh, and here’s the first song from Billy’s first Apple album, That’s The Way God Planned It, a song called Do What You Want To.