Late-musician Billy Preston to be immortalized in new documentary in the works
Emmy winner Paris Barclays will direct the film about the Hall of Fame keyboardist and singer affectionately known as "The Fifth Beattle"
Billy Preston was immortalized by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last month when he was inducted into the Class of 2021. Now, the late keyboardist/vocalist will be immortalized on screen with a new documentary that is in the works, as reported by Deadline.
Preston, who passed away in 2006, was one of the most beloved and sought-after organists and keyboard players of the 1960s and 1970s. He played alongside legends such as Ray Charles, Little Richard and the Rolling Stones. He achieved success as a solo artist as well, garnering five Top 10 Billboard 100 singles, including a Syreeta duet “With You I’m Born Again,” “Outa Space” and “Space Race,” as well as the No. 1 hits “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing From Nothing.”
Preston also co-wrote “You Are So Beautiful,” a song that became a big hit for English singer Joe Cocker.
His work with The Beatles was particularly well known. He was so prominently featured on their No. 1 single “Get Back,” it was released as “The Beatles with Billy Preston.” This, along with features on other Beatles songs on their albums Let It Be and Abbey Road, prompted him to be affectionately known as “The Fifth Beatle” for the rest of his life.
Paris Barclay, a decorated TV director, is in the director’s chair for the untitled documentary on Preston. Barclay is also co-writing the piece with Cheo Hodari Coker. Barclay holds two Primetime Emmys for his work on NBC’s NYPD Blue, as well as nominations for directing episodes for NBC’s The West Wing and Fox’s Glee.
Barclay said “the Billy Preston we know was an incomparable musician, but the Billy we’ll see in this documentary was a mass of contradictions. I’m thrilled to dig deeper into the complex man under the Afro, and behind the famous smile.”
Coker is a longtime music journalist and author who has transitioned into screenwriting. Along with penning the Notorious B.I.G. biography, Unbelievable: The Life, Death and Afterlife of The Notorious B.I.G., Coker has been a writer on the Netflix series Marvel’s Luke Cage, CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles and Showtime’s Ray Donovan, according to NPR.
Producing the documentary will be Stephanie Allain via Homegrown Pictures, along with Jeanne Elfant Festa and Nigel Sinclair of White Horse Pictures. Allain and Homegrown have produced featured films such as Hustle and Flow and Beyond the Lights, in addition to the Netflix series Dear White People. White Horse Pictures has been behind such documentaries as HBO’s Emmy nominated The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart and The Apollo.
“A singular figure in music history, Billy Preston lent his genius to elevate the most celebrated artists of the 20th Century,” Allain said. “Grateful to work with this team, using this soundtrack to explore his personal journey and finally place him front and center.”