Billy Preston Goes Full Circle

The man who was a keyboard confidant of both The Beatles and the Rolling Stones was adding to his solo career heritage exactly 43 years ago. The late and much-missed Billy Preston, a cherished contributor to the work of both bands and many others, entered the Billboard Hot 100 for 31 March, 1973 with the ultra-funky 'Will It Go Round In Circles.'

Billy Preston and George HarrisonIt was strangely fitting that, just over three months later, this great solo track by the man who'd played on 'Get Back' and with George Harrison at the Concert For Bangladesh was replacing George's 'Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)' at No. 1 in America.

Preston, a former child prodigy who appeared in the film St Louis Blues in 1958, had met The Beatles in their early days when, still only 16, he accompanied Sam Cooke and Little Richard on a British tour in 1962. He first found singles chart success in his own right as a signing to the group's Apple label. 1969's stirring 'That's The Way God Planned It,' produced by Harrison, was followed by an impressive version of George's 'My Sweet Lord.'

Music Is My LifeIn 1972, Billy came within an ace of a No. 1 single in the US with the catchy instrumental 'Outa-Space.' The A&M release was an R&B chart-topper and made a long climb into runner-up spot on the Hot 100, giving ground only to Bill Withers' 'Lean On Me.' By late that year, Preston was releasing his next studio album Music Is My Life.

The LP was full of A-list session players, some of them yet to find fame outside the studio, notably the dynamic guitar-and-bass combination of George and Louis, the Brothers Johnson. A brothers-george-louis-johnsonmighty five-piece horn section featured Tom Scott, whose countless later credits included yet another Beatle connection, in the nimble solo on Paul McCartney and Wings' 'Listen To What The Man Said.'

'Will It Go Round In Circles' made a cautious debut at No. 99 in the States, but made slow and steady progress throughout the spring, hitting the top ten in its 12th week. By then, McCartney and Wings were in a four-week reign with 'My Love,' which then gave way to Harrison's 'Give Me Love'; then along came Billy, stealing George's top spot to his undoubted amusement. The b-side? Preston's Music Is My Life cover version of Lennon and McCartney's 'Blackbird.' Full 'Circles' indeed.

Listen to 'Will It Go Round In Circles' on the '70s Pop #1s compilation on Spotify
Explore our dedicated Billy Preston Artist Page


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