From page 8 of Classic Rock Magazine August 2006
Having been in a coma since suffering kidney failure last year, singer and songwriter Billy Preston died on June 6 in an Arizona hospital. He was 59. Once described by Ringo Starr as “the world’s greatest Hammond organ player”, Preston’s appearances on the Let It Be , Abbey Road and White albums caused him to be dubbed ‘ the fifth Beatle ’. He also played on The Rolling Stones ’ It’s Only Rock‘N’Roll album. Preston’s fivedecade career began as a child prodigy playing keyboards for Little Richard and Ray Charles . His last full-time job was touring with Eric Clapton ’s band, but he also worked with Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, the Jackson 5, Sly & The Family Stone and the Red Hot Chilis . A recording artist in his own right, he cowrote You Are So Beautiful for Joe Cocker .
The former singer of San Antonio power metal band Slayer – not to be confused with the Tom Araya-fronted Californians – Steve Cooper has died of complications from liver failure. Cooper was 47 years old, and had also worked with Riot guitarist Mark Reale in the short-lived band Marita and had spells with Juggernaut, Exxplorer and Liquid Sky .
The final keyboardist to play with the Grateful Dead , Vince Welnick has passed away at the age of 55. Welnick spent five years with the band and also played with The Tubes . The Dead employed many keyboard players before their dissolution, several of whom died – generating a rumour that the job was cursed. The band’s PR declined to reveal the cause of death. Their statement said: “His service to and love for the Grateful Dead were heartfelt and essential. He had a loving soul and a joy in music that we were lucky to share. Our Grateful Dead prayer for the repose of his spirit: may the four winds blow him safely home.”
Legendary Scandinavian gig promoter Erik Thomsen passed away on May 20 after a long-term illness. A lover of hard rock, during his 40 years in the business he worked with all the top acts including Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple , and with his tireless enthusiasm gained genuine respect from the bands he worked with. He also had the ability of being able to party as hard if not harder than his clients. Thomsen was constantly the victim of practical jokes, especially at the hands of Ritchie Blackmore . Once, Deep Purple played a show in Paris and Ritchie decided it would be a good idea, during the encore, to suspend Erik in mid-air from the lighting rig – naked, of course.
Thomsen’s company, ET Concert Promotions, will remain in operation.