"the wildest organ in town" (r.i.p. Billy Preston)
As you've no doubt heard by now, Billy Preston died on Tuesday, less than two weeks after we lost Desmond Dekker. He was only 59.
Known as "the fifth Beatle," Preston famously received credit on "Get Back," the only person outside of the fab-four to ever be noted for a contribution to a Beatles recording. Preston's electric piano solo on "Get Back" was a delight and he performed the track with the group on their final "rooftop"concert.
Check Preston's wikipedia entry and you may be surprised to learn that: Billy, along with Quincy Jones, co-wrote the score for the Sidney Poitier movie "They Call Me Mr. Tibbs." And a gravely ill Preston literally got up from his sick bed to contribute to the Red Hot Chili Peppers recently released Stadium Arcadium. According to Flea, Preston, upon receipt of the working demo, emerged from bed just long enough to lay down the clavinet track for "Warlocks." Here's a clip of the Chili Peppers' "Warlocks." (Note that "Warlock" is the title of one of Desmond Dekker's best songs, which serves to give a nod to the original rude boy in this Preston tribute).
Sunny -- Billy Preston: Wildest Organ in Town (1966)
Rated X / Billy Preston -- Miles Davis: Panthalassa (Bill Laswell Reconstruction & Mix Translation)
Along with "Rated X," Bill Laswell included the track Miles Davis named in honor of Preston in Panthalassa, his reworking of Miles early '70 material, including In A Silent Way ('69), On The Corner ('72) and Get Up With It. ('74). It's a brilliant mix that remains faithful to Miles sound and vision while sounding fresh, exciting, a bit trippy and, of course, dubbier (dubbier? -- not a word) than the source material. Laswell showed great restraint by sparingly and judiciously weaving his trademark dub sound into the mixes. Check this great review of the album from the Austin Chronicle, which notes that Laswell "takes the nuclear-powered groove of one of the 20th Century's greatest musicians, and catapults it even farther into the stratosphere." The author also asked Laswell "what exactly is a 'mix translation'?" To which Bill replied:
It just means moving energy from one place to another. It's all energy that we're dealing with and translating means making it understood to someone else, bringing it to them in a language that they speak.
With Billy Preston and Desmond Dekker's passing, there is a whole mess of magic musical mojo energy movin' out there in the stratosphere. Let's hope that those who tap into it put it to good use.
. . .