The Beatles aren’t the only fab talents causing a stir in the recently released Beatles documentary, Get Back.
As has been widely noted, soul singer Billy Preston lights up every scene he’s in.
He also served as a leveling influence when tensions within the band frequently exploded into fits of temper.
“It’s interesting to see how nicely people behave when you bring a guest in,” George Harrison observed.
In addition to his successful solo career, with a number of funk and R&B hits, Preston gigged for a host of all time greats: Ray Charles, Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones…the list goes on.
A year later, he entered America’s living rooms, when he appeared on The Nat King Cole Show, above, to duet with TV’s first national Black variety show host on “Blueberry Hill,” a 40s tune Fats Waller had popularized earlier in the decade.
“You have a very excellent career ahead of you,” Cole predicts, following their performance.
Daughter Natalie Cole later enthused that the celebrated crooner “lets this kid have all the glory,” though the self-possessed pre-teen holds his own ably, alternating between organ and his own impressive pipes.
As an adult, Preston’s star was tarnished by addiction, arrests and self-sabotaging behavior that his manager, Joyce Moore, and half-sister Lettie, said was most deeply rooted in his mother’s refusal to believe that he was being sexually abused by the pianist of a summer touring company, and later a local pastor.
It’s part of a lurid, longer tale, calling to mind other promising, oft-prodigious young talents who never managed to get out from under damage inflicted by adults when they were children.
He was 9.