Celebrated Keyboardist and Songwriter Billy Preston Dies at 59

Billy Preston
Billy Preston

Keyboardist, singer-songwriter and legendary sideman Billy Preston, died today of kidney failure and other complications. He died at Shea Scottsdale Hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona where he’d lived for the last two years.

Billy was called the Fifth Beatle because he played keyboards on Let it Be, The White Album and Abbey Road,” said Roger Friedman on Billy Preston’s official web site. “He also played on the Rolling Stones’ hit song Miss You, and often played with Eric Clapton. He also did the organ work on Sly & the Family Stone’s greatest hits. Preston’s own hits included “Nothing from Nothing,” “Will it Go Round in Circles,” and “You Are So Beautiful,” which Joe Cocker turned into an
international hit.

A teen prodigy on the piano and organ, Billy Preston built an enviable reputation as a session musician lending both his vocal and piano skills to such artists as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Little Richard,” said Neil Portnow, President of The Recording Academy. “Billy Preston established a heralded solo career with his soul and high-flying vocals while earning two GRAMMY Awards and multiple nominations. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends as we mourn the loss of a truly talented musician.”