Happy birthday to another one they sometimes call The Fifth Beatle, Billy Preston. The future top session man grew up in Los Angeles a piano prodigy. At 10 he was performing with Mahalia Jackson and was on TV at 11 dueting with Nat King Cole. He played a young WC Handy in the biopic St Louis Blues in '58.
He joined Little Richard's group in '62 as the band organist, meeting the Beatles in Germany. In '63 he played on Sam Cooke's absolute classic Night Beat. The same year Cooke produced Preston's first album, 16 Year Old Soul. He joined Ray Charles' band in '67 and his session career took off, playing with Aretha Franklin, Barbara Streisand, Peter Frampton and many more.
He contributed heavily to the Beatles' Let It Be album and played their final concert with the group. The "Let It Be"/"Don't Let Me Down" single was credited to "The Beatles With Billy Preston", the only authorized shared billing release in the group's catalogue. He contributed to Abbey Road as well. After the Fab Four break-up, Preston continued working with John Lennon and Ringo Starr but most closely with George Harrison, who produced some Preston records.
He joined the Rolling Stones in 1970 and remained with them until '77. After that he still appeared on some Stones albums, as well as with member solo projects. He contributed to There's A Riot Going On, the classic '71 album by Sly & the Family Stone. He contributed to the writing of hit songs "You Are So Beautiful" (Joe Cocker) and "Love The One You're With" (Stephen Stills). His own funky "Outa-Space" was a hit in '72 and he was Saturday Night Live's first ever musical guest ('75). Miles Davis named a cut after him on his Get Up With It album. He appeared in the wacky Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band movie in '78.
He briefly joined The Band in '91 and later years found him recording with Eric Clapton, Luther Vandross, Johnny Cash, Norah Jones, Joni Mitchell, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Me'shell Ndegeocello, Neil Diamond and others, as well as recording gospel before his death from kidney failure.