Lorena Eckman

Written by Lorena Eckman

Modified & Updated: 31 May 2024

Jessica Corbett

Reviewed by Jessica Corbett

Source: Britannica.com

Billy Preston, a legendary figure in the music industry, was not only an extraordinary musician but also a multi-talented individual whose impact spanned different genres and generations. Born on September 2, 1946, in Houston, Texas, Billy Preston rose to prominence as a keyboardist, singer, and songwriter.

Throughout his career, Preston worked with some of the biggest names in music, including The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton. His energetic performances and mesmerizing stage presence captivated audiences around the world. However, there are many intriguing facets of his life and career that are lesser-known.

In this article, we will delve into 21 surprising facts about Billy Preston, shedding light on his remarkable journey, extraordinary collaborations, and enduring legacy. From his early musical beginnings to his influence on modern music, these facts will provide a deeper understanding of the man behind the music.

Key Takeaways:

  • Billy Preston was a multi-talented musician, known for his exceptional singing, piano, organ, and guitar skills. His collaborations with legendary artists and chart-topping solo hits left an indelible mark on the music industry.
  • Despite personal challenges, Billy Preston’s dedication to his craft and trailblazing spirit continue to inspire and entertain music lovers worldwide. His unique sound and exceptional talent have left a lasting impact on the world of music.
Table of Contents

Billy Preston was a multi-talented musician.

Billy Preston was not only an exceptional singer, but he was also a skilled pianist, organist, and guitarist.

He began playing the piano at a young age.

At the age of three, Billy Preston started playing the piano and showed remarkable musical aptitude from an early age.

Billy Preston collaborated with some of the greatest musicians of all time.

Throughout his career, Billy Preston had the privilege of working with legendary artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton.

He was known as the “Fifth Beatle”.

Billy Preston’s close association with The Beatles led to him being referred to as the “Fifth Beatle” due to his significant contributions to their music.

Billy Preston wrote and recorded his own hit songs.

In addition to collaborating with other artists, Billy Preston released several successful solo albums and had chart-topping hits like “Nothing From Nothing” and “Will It Go Round in Circles”.

He was the first artist to perform on Saturday Night Live.

In 1975, Billy Preston made history as the inaugural musical guest on the iconic late-night sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live.

Billy Preston was a session musician for Motown Records.

During the 1960s, Preston played as a session musician for Motown Records, contributing his exceptional keyboard skills to numerous hit songs.

He was influenced by gospel music.

Growing up, Billy Preston was deeply influenced by gospel music, which played a significant role in shaping his unique musical style.

Billy Preston was a regular performer on The Ed Sullivan Show.

His captivating performances on The Ed Sullivan Show helped to catapult Billy Preston’s career and expose his talent to a wider audience.

He had a successful acting career.

Billy Preston showcased his acting chops in films like “Blues Brothers 2000″ and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”.

Billy Preston toured with the Rolling Stones.

As a keyboardist and vocalist, Billy Preston joined the Rolling Stones on their 1973 European tour, further solidifying his status as a highly sought-after musician.

He worked closely with George Harrison.

Billy Preston had a longstanding collaboration with George Harrison, contributing his signature keyboard skills to Harrison’s solo albums and performances.

Billy Preston was known for his flamboyant fashion sense.

With his vibrant and eye-catching outfits, Billy Preston made a statement both on and off the stage, adding to his charismatic persona.

He had a turbulent personal life.

Billy Preston faced personal challenges, including struggles with substance abuse, but he persevered and continued to create remarkable music.

Billy Preston was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2009, Billy Preston was posthumously honored with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his immense contributions to music.

He was a trailblazer as an openly gay musician.

Billy Preston’s openness about his sexuality during a time when it was not widely accepted in the music industry has made him an inspiration to many.

Billy Preston’s music has been sampled by numerous artists.

His unique sound and iconic songs have been sampled by contemporary artists, showcasing his enduring influence on music today.

He received a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.

In 1973, Billy Preston was recognized with a Grammy Award for his instrumental hit “Outa-Space”.

Billy Preston was a talented songwriter.

Besides his performance skills, Billy Preston showcased his songwriting abilities, penning songs for himself and other artists.

He had a powerful voice.

Billy Preston’s rich and soulful voice resonated with audiences and added an extra layer of depth to his music.

Billy Preston’s legacy continues to inspire.

Even though Billy Preston is no longer with us, his music and contributions to the industry continue to inspire and influence musicians and fans alike.

These 21 surprising facts about Billy Preston provide a glimpse into the extraordinary life and career of this talented musician. From his collaborations with iconic artists to his chart-topping solo hits, Billy Preston left an indelible mark on the music industry. Despite facing personal challenges, he remained dedicated to his craft and continued to create music that resonated with audiences. Billy Preston’s unique sound, exceptional talent, and trailblazing spirit continue to inspire and entertain music lovers around the world. So, the next time you find yourself enjoying his music, remember these 21 surprising facts about Billy Preston and appreciate the lasting impact he has made on the world of music.


In conclusion, Billy Preston was an immensely talented musician and a true trailblazer in the music industry. His unique blend of soul, funk, and gospel music left a lasting impact on the world, and his collaborations with legendary artists such as The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones only solidified his status as a musical icon. From his early beginnings as a child prodigy to his successful solo career, Billy Preston’s contribution to music cannot be overstated. Whether you’re familiar with his work or just discovering it now, exploring the surprising facts about Billy Preston will undoubtedly deepen your appreciation for his incredible talent and the mark he left on the world of music.


1. Was Billy Preston primarily known as a solo artist or for his collaborations with other musicians?

Billy Preston was known for both his successful solo career and his collaborations with other musicians. While he achieved significant success as a solo artist, he also made a name for himself through his collaborations with renowned artists such as The Beatles, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones.

2. What was Billy Preston’s signature instrument?

Billy Preston was known for his mastery of the keyboards, particularly the Hammond organ. His distinct sound and virtuosity on the keys added a unique flavor to his music and set him apart from other musicians of his time.

3. Did Billy Preston receive any awards or recognition for his contributions to music?

Yes, Billy Preston received several accolades throughout his career. He was nominated for multiple Grammy Awards and won the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1973 for his hit song “Outa-Space.” He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

4. What were some of Billy Preston’s most popular songs?

Billy Preston had several popular songs throughout his career, including “Nothing from Nothing,” “Will It Go Round in Circles,” and “With You I’m Born Again” (a duet with Syreeta). These songs topped the charts and showcased his incredible talent as both a singer and a songwriter.

5. Did Billy Preston face any challenges during his career?

Throughout his career, Billy Preston faced various personal and professional challenges, including struggles with substance abuse. However, he managed to overcome these obstacles and continue creating music that resonated with audiences around the world.

Billy Preston's incredible talent and collaborations with iconic musicians have left an indelible mark on music history. Explore more fascinating stories, like uncovering the soul music sounds of Italy's Porretta Festival or diving into surprising facts about Preston's most famous collaborators, The Beatles. Discover interesting tidbits about the Grammy Award, which recognized Preston's instrumental prowess, and continue your musical journey through these captivating articles.

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