Billy Preston: The 'Fifth Beatle,' Reborn

I Want to Thank You

3 min 12 sec
 
"I Want to Thank You" shows off the heavenly exuberance that helped make Billy Preston a star in the late '60s. i i

"I Want to Thank You" shows off the heavenly exuberance that helped make Billy Preston a star in the late '60s. Apple Corps Ltd. hide caption

itoggle caption Apple Corps Ltd.
"I Want to Thank You" shows off the heavenly exuberance that helped make Billy Preston a star in the late '60s.

"I Want to Thank You" shows off the heavenly exuberance that helped make Billy Preston a star in the late '60s.

Apple Corps Ltd.

Thursday's Pick

Song: "I Want To Thank You"

Artist: Billy Preston

CD: That's the Way God Planned It

Genre: Soul

Billy Preston had many guises: gospel child prodigy, backup pianist for Little Richard and Mahalia Jackson, the so-called "Fifth Beatle" for his keyboard work in "Get Back" and a solo artist who brought a heavenly exuberance to his music. Best known for the schmaltzy "With You I'm Born Again" and the rollicking "Nothing From Nothing," he released two solo albums for the Beatles' Apple label in 1969 and '70, long out of print and now freshly remastered.

"I Want to Thank You," an emphatic waltz from That's the Way God Planned It, shows off the attributes that helped make Preston a star. Giving thanks to a lover who "makes all the plans and dreams and schemes come true," Preston takes a clichéd lyric and invests it with the fun of '50s pop and the swelling spirit of gospel — courtesy of Preston's pumping piano, stuttering Hammond organ and vocals that rise in intensity as the seconds tick by.

In his personal life, Preston abused drugs and alcohol, served time for cocaine possession, arson and insurance fraud, and died of kidney failure five years ago at age 59. But in music, he found and gave great joy. When he declares that "no one else in this world can make me feel the way you do," the logical assumption is that the Fifth Beatle is singing to his musical muse.

Purchase Featured Music

That's the Way God Planned It

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
That's the Way God Planned It
Artist
Billy Preston
Label
Apple
Released
1969

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.