Billy Preston: Stories And Life Of The (Almost) Fifth Beatle

By Jacob Shelton
Billy Preston (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Billy Preston left his mark on the pop charts with the hits "Will It Go Round In Circles?," "Nothing From Nothing" and "Outa-Space," but he was a bigger presence than that. Preston played with the Beatles (who considered asking him to join the group), he recorded and toured with the Rolling Stones, he played on key albums by Eric Clapton, Barbra Streisand and Sly and the Family Stone.

There are many people who've been characterized as “the fifth Beatle” -- from early band member Stuart Sutcliffe to manager Brian Epstein to producer George Martin. But Preston is the only performer who actually played with the band and received credit for his work. The single “Get Back” was credited to "The Beatles with Billy Preston" Preston added some of the grooviest key and Rhodes work to the group’s final albums in their catalog, and even played during their final performance. So he wasn't an official Beatle, but he was a kind of shadow member there at the end; in fact, he was a major presence in much of ‘60s and ‘70s rock n roll.