So a 59-year old man reaches the Pearly Gates. St. Peter asks him: "And why do you think you deserve to enter Heaven?" The man replies "Because I am the only human being who played with both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles?" Instant admission is granted and merciless autograph-hounding ensues.
Billy Preston died today at the age of 59.
His sessions work resume is an embarrassment of riches: Abbey Road, Let it Be, White Album, All Things Must Pass, Concert For Bangladesh. Oh, and Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. And Blood On the Tracks. And the piano part on John Lennon's "God". And Sly Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On". And Miles Davis named a song after him. MILES DAVIS NAMED A SONG AFTER HIM!
When I think of Billy Preston, the image that comes to mind is of him crouched over that electric piano one cold, defiant and sad afternoon in London. The one person on that rooftop whose face radiates joy is Billy Preston. He effortlessly knocks out that delightful, staccato solo from "Get Back". No politics, no bickering, just rock and roll.
"If only I were a fly on the wall" is a commonly heard refrain among music fans when they discuss legendary recording sessions. While most of us can only dream of being that fly, Billy Preston lived it in reality. He was the Super Fly.