Billy Preston was 59
‘Fifth Beatle’ Billy Preston has died aged 59.
The keyboard player, who played with the Fab Four as well as The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, had been battling chronic kidney failure for some time. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2002, but the kidney failed and he has been on dialysis treatments ever since.
The star’s manager Joyce Moore told Billboard that Preston had been in a coma in a care facility since November. He was taken to a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona at the weekend (June 3) after his condition deteriorated.
Preston is best known for providing keyboards on The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’ album, most notably a solo on the Number One single ‘Get Back’. He even performed with them the last time they played live, at the rooftop concert in central London in 1969. It was around this time he began to be dubbed ‘The fifth Beatle’ by fans and the press.
Preston also later appeared on solo albums by Beatles pals George Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr.
He also most notably guested with The Rolling Stones on their classic albums ‘Sticky Fingers’ and ‘Exile On Main Street’, as well as Bob Dylan’s ‘Blood On The Tracks’, Sly And The Family Stone’s ‘There’s A Riot Goin’ On’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Young, Gifted And Black’.
Preston was also successful as a solo artist in the Seventies, winning a best instrumental Grammy in 1973 for the track ‘Outta Space’.
Mick Jagger was among the first paying tribute to Preston, saying: “Billy was a fantastic and gifted musician…a superb singer at both recording sessions and live. He was great fun to be with onstage when touring with us…I will miss him a lot.”
Jagger‘s bandmate Keith Richards, himself recovering from a recent operation, added: “One For Billy, a genius with all the baggage! Too soon, so great! Miss you.”