To say that Billy Preston has had a varied and illustrious career would be both an understatement and a cliché that his doesn’t deserve. He played with The Beatles, was a backing musician for gospel singers like Mahalia Jackson (at the age of ten, mind you) and wrote some of the most enduring singles of all time. There’s even a video of a young Preston even playing the organ and singing with Nat King Cole. At 11-years-old.
Eleven. Years. Old.
It’s pretty safe to say that most of us were not singing with Nat King Cole at that age, let alone be brave enough to play Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill” with him on the organ.
But it’s not that video I’ve shared today, instead it’s something with a whole lot more jump to it. Here Preston is performing with Ray Charles during a 1967 episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. It’s a brief cover of Edwin Starr’s 1965 single, “Agent Double-O-Soul.” Preston shoots on stage like a rocket, burns brightly with the fury of a thousand suns and bows out before the song can even hit the two minute mark. This is a fairly different sound than Starr’s original recording, but the speeding up of the tempo and the addition of an orchestra really makes this a great cover.
Another reason this video is so unusual is that we get to see Preston away from his piano. Most footage of him performing was of him at his piano or organ. Thankfully this offers the rare chance to see him up and grooving. You see plenty of contemporary musicians dance, yes, but it’s typically choreographed to a point. Seeing this amount of pure energy and movement and is a fantastic feat to watch.
I’m currently trying to find ways to still include music in this blog while Vinyl Fridays is put on a hold. I’m not sure if posting a video every week even counts as content. I typically wouldn’t, but sometimes when you see Billy Preston dancing in a lime green suit, you really can’t keep it to yourself.