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Billy Preston - Rhythm and Blues Star Dies of Kidney Failure

June 7th, 2006

Billy Preston - Rhythm and Blues Star Dies of Kidney Failure

Billy Preston

Billy Preston died this past Tuesday at the age of 59 years.  He was a considered by many an unofficial “fifth Beatle.”   His music career has been very widespread and respected by many.  Jazz legend, Miles Davis, named a song “Billy Preston” in honor of him.  

When Preston was a teenager he performed with greats such as Mahalia Jackson, Little Richard, and Ray Charles.  In 1969 he performed with the Beatles.  Preston and the Beatles released a single together “Get Back” with “Don’t Let Me Down” on the flipside.  The credit on this record said “The Beatles with Billy Preston.”  He later joined in the Beatles last concert of that year in London.  He also played on the 1970 Beatles album “Let It Be.”


Preston continued to be popular as a solo act in the 1970’s.  He worked with the Rolling Stones.  He is a co-songwriter for Joe Cocker’s 1974 hit song “You Are So Beautiful.”

According to Wikipedia, in the 1980’s he had a downturn in his music career and was arrested and convicted for insurance fraud for setting his own home on fire in Los Angeles.  He also had drug and alcohol addictions.  In 1991 he was charged with cocaine and assault charges.  His sentence included 9 months in rehab and 3 months house arrest.

The 1980s were lean years for Preston. He was arrested and convicted for insurance fraud after setting fire to his own house in Los Angeles, and he was treated for alcohol and cocaine addictions. In 1991, he entered no-contest pleas to the cocaine and assault charges. He was sentenced to nine months at a drug rehabilitation center and three months of house arrest.


Other artists that Preston worked with through the years were George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Sly Stone, Aretha Franklin, the Jackson 5, Quincy Jones, and Red Hot Chili Peppers.

His final musical contribution was playing a Gospel inspired organ for Neil Diamond’s album, “12 Songs.”


In 2002, Preston had a kidney transplant due to kidney disease.  His health condition continued to progressively get worse over the years.  On November 21st of 2005 he went into a coma.  He died on June 6th, 2006 in Scottsdale, Arizona from complications of malignant hypertension caused by the kidney failure.

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Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

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