Get Back: Who Was John Lennon’s Lost “Fifth Beatle” Billy Preston?


eater jacksonGet Back has delighted fans of the Fab Four, but you’ll also see a lesser-known face in the Beatles’ new documentary.

Billy Preston – dubbed the “Fifth Beatle” John Lennon, no less – the Beatles were the only musicians to be given co-credits on the label (the Get Back single, which is why you’ll see them a lot in Jackson’s film).

Preston, a keyboardist, is a major musical presence on Let It Be. Lightning the piano The album is chatty throughout, helping to smooth out the creative cracks that were already emerging in these early stages of the band’s eventual split.

Preston also appeared on Abbey Road, and would later play with Paul, George, John, and Ringo at their famous rooftop concert – the last being T.that beatles ever performed in public.

Lennon was especially eager for Preston to officially join the band, but Paul wasn’t sure the Beatles could last long enough to justify a new addition (in fairness, he was probably right).

However, George initially brought Preston into the fold. When tensions ran high during the Let It Be sessions, Harrison walked out, seeking relief at a Ray Charles concert in London, where Preston was playing the organ.

The two musicians had already met in 1962, during The Beatles’ early Hamburg tenure. (Preston was playing with Little Richard at the time, and would perform with a fantastic selection of other acts – from the Rolling Stones to Neil Diamond and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – as well as enjoying success as a solo artist.)

Back in 1969, Harrison increasingly invited Preston into the studio, hoping to ease tensions within The Beatles. He did the same by calling friend Eric Clapton during the recording for the White album, but this time his inspiration was personal and musical.

“It’s interesting to see how well people behave when you bring in a guest, because they don’t want everyone to know they’re so cuddly,” says Harrison in the anthology. “All of a sudden everyone is on their best behavior.”

Describing Preston, he continued: “He got on the electric piano, and immediately there was a 100 percent improvement in the vibe in the room.”

“Having this fifth person was enough to cut the ice we built among ourselves.”

“Billy didn’t know all the politics and the games going on, so in his innocence he snapped and gave the band an extra little kick. Everyone was happy that someone else was playing and that made what we were doing more enjoyable.” Made it. We all played well and it was a great session.”

The Beatles still broke up, but Preston was frequently invited during his solo career. George even gave My Sweet Lord for him to record before touching himself, and Preston performed the song at Concert for George in 2002.

The keyboardist was originally dropped from the original Let It Be film, but Peter Jackson has made a point of getting him back in action. Back, one might say where he once belonged.

Parts one through three of Get Back premiere on Disney+ on November 25, 26 and 27, respectively


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