Billy Preston: Little Girl
From Encouraging Words (Apple, 1970)
(Editor’s Note: Mark had reached out to me about having him write something on Preston for the site but at the time, I didn’t have the sound file for “Little Girl” as per his request so he went ahead and wrote up a short obit on his site. I managed to finally get a copy of the song so I’m just going to reprint what he has from his site over here, now with music. –O.W.)
Growing up in New York City in the 1970s and listening to the classic top-pop 40 station WABC-AM, I was exposed to the great hits of Billy Preston. Tracks like “Outta Space”, “Will It Go Round in Circles”, “Space Race” and especially “Nothing from Nothing” were part of the soundtrack of my childhood. At the time I was oblivious to Preston’s status at the 5th Beatle or any of his early Apple recordings. I was finally introduced to the genius of Preston’s early work via Donny Hathaway’s cover of Preston “Little Girl” which appears on Preston 1970 recording Encouraging Words. Most fans likely remember Preston most for his duet “With You I’m Born Again” with the late Syreeta Wright.
Preston was never out of the public eye, often making cameos on recordings of his friends like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and Joe Cocker, who made Preston’s composition “You Are So Beautiful” a modern standard. For me, my favorite musical memories of Preston are the Hammond B-3 solo that opens Luther Vandross’s “‘Til My Baby Comes Home” and his stellar backing behind Aretha Franklin during her legendary Fillmore West dates (“play Billy!”, as the Queen would say).
I am sure as I write this, Uncle Ray, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Donny Hathaway, Mahailia Jackson and Lulu Hardaway are welcoming Billy Preston home. —Mark Anthony Neal.