Billy Preston (1946—2006) was a friend to many, and the guest keyboard player of choice for some of popular music’s greatest acts, including Sam Cooke, Little Richard, Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones and The Beatles. He was the only other musician The Beatles chose to acknowledge on a record label (‘Get Back’ was credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston; he also played on Abbey Road and Let It Be). Billy was also a gifted singer-songwriter in his own right, with a string of hits to his name, not least of which was ‘That’s The Way God Planned It’, which became the title track of his first LP for Apple Records. Billy gave an unforgettable performance of the song at George Harrison’s Concert For Bangla Desh in 1971, at which, some say, Billy stole the show.
In 1973, Billy won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance for his A&M single ‘Outta Space’. He issued around 30 albums in his lifetime, among them two for Apple, That’s The Way God Planned It (1969) and Encouraging Words (1970), both of which were produced (or co-produced) by George Harrison. Encouraging Words not only includes Billy’s exemplary cover versions of ‘My Sweet Lord’, ‘All Things Must Pass’ and ‘I’ve Got A Feeling’, but also boasts a one-off Harrison-Preston composition, a modern-day rock spiritual, ‘Sing One For The Lord’.