Unveiling Billy Preston’s Role in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s ‘Let It Be’ Documentary

Billy Preston emerges as a vibrant force, injecting life into a band fading under the scrutiny of Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s ‘Let It Be’ documentary. While Lennon exuded coolness, McCartney penned hits, and Harrison sported iconic attire, there’s an overlooked legend in the Beatles’ final album: keyboard virtuoso Billy Preston.

His pivotal role in the film, previously underappreciated, now comes to light as ‘Let It Be’ resurfaces on Disney+ after half a century. Lindsay-Hogg’s restoration, a culmination of Peter Jackson’s extensive project, intertwines with ‘Get Back’, offering a complete narrative of the band’s journey.

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 Billy Preston Let It Be Documentary
Image Courtesy: People

Originally acquainted with Preston in 1962 during tours with Little Richard and Sam Cooke, the Beatles’ encounter with him amid recording sessions was transformative. Preston’s presence infused the studio with warmth and camaraderie, reshaping the band’s dynamic from detached to collaborative. 

As tensions eased, joyous jam sessions ensued, epitomized by the infectious energy of ‘Shake, Rattle And Roll’ and a reggae rendition of ‘The Long And Winding Road.’ Lennon even toyed with the idea of integrating Preston into the band permanently, a testament to his profound impact.

Throughout the documentary, Preston’s versatility shines as he seamlessly adapts to the band’s experimental ventures, from experimenting with a stylophone to elevating ‘Let It Be’ with soulful Hammond organ riffs.

 Billy Preston Let It Be Documentary
Image Courtesy: People

His contributions extend beyond the titular track, permeating ‘Dig A Pony,’ ‘I’ve Got A Feeling,’ and ‘One After 909’ with a soulful groove. However, it’s his dynamic performance on ‘Get Back’ that truly solidifies his legacy, earning him a rare billing alongside the Beatles on the single release.

Preston’s influence extended beyond the studio, culminating in his participation in the Beatles’ final rooftop concert. His spirited organ playing propelled iconic tracks like ‘Get Back,’ ‘I’ve Got A Feeling,’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down,’ epitomizing the band’s swan song.

While Lennon’s proposal to formalize Preston’s membership went unrealized, his role in the ‘Abbey Road’ sessions further underscored his significance. Without Preston’s magic on the keys, the late-era Beatles might have faced a different fate, making him an indispensable figure in the band’s history.

– Farheen Ali