I Wrote a Simple Song/Music Is My Life

I Wrote a Simple Song/Music Is My Life

by Billy PrestonBilly Preston


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Considering his church background and strong spiritual beliefs that result in songs titled "God Is Great" and "God Loves You" on both of these albums (remastered and reissued as a double disc under one cover at a bargain price in 2010), keyboardist/singer Billy Preston was as much a proponent for the secular rock, pop, and jazz of Little Richard, the Beatles, the Stones, and Ray Charles, all of whom he worked with. The latter eclectic soulman provides the basic blueprint for Preston's voice, and some of the songs on his 1971 A&M debut, I Wrote a Simple Song, right down to a version of "My Country 'Tis of Thee" modeled after Charles' similar take on "America the Beautiful." He visits his religious roots on a funked-up "Swing Down Chariot," but the album finds its surest footing on the funky "Should've Known Better" (not to be confused with the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better"), the political yet bubbly "The Bus," and especially the percussive, impossibly catchy instrumental "Outa-Space," Preston's biggest single to date. String and horn arrangements by Quincy Jones, David T. Walker on guitars, and George Harrison on occasional lead guitar ensure that this is a professionally recorded session, even if it is somewhat scattered in its direction. Some tunes, such as the preachy let's-make-the-world-a-better-place platitudes of "The Looner Tune," don't help matters, but Preston is always committed to the material with vocals that are energized, honest, and passionate. Two years later, he followed with Music Is My Life, which contained his first and only U.S. number one hit, "Will It Go Round in Circles." In general, it was a funkier, less eclectic release, perhaps because of the participation of the Brothers Johnson on bass and guitar. A highlight is a cover of the Beatles' "Blackbird," a tough, Sly Stone styled approach that turned the song from hushed folk to thumping R&B in an audacious and successful reimagining of the Lennon-McCartney tune. Two religious tracks appear with the schlocky disco leanings of "God Loves You" in stark contrast to its lyrics, and the slower, almost swampy burn of the nearly six-minute "Make the Devil Mad (Turn on to Jesus)," a more effective way to deliver the message. The album peters out due to weaker material in its final third, but Preston works well with string accompaniment on the snoozy ballad "Heart Full of Sorrow" and closes with the autobiographical gospel title track backed only by his acoustic piano (and a little organ) where he expresses his commitment to playing music and his talent as bestowed from above.

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Product Details

Release Date: 03/15/2011
Label: Bgo - Beat Goes On
UPC: 5017261209863
catalogNumber: 6120986


Disc 1

  1. Should've Known Better
  2. I Wrote a Simple Song
  3. John Henry
  4. Without a Song
  5. The Bus
  6. Outa-Space
  7. The Looner Tune
  8. You Done Got Older
  9. Swing Down Chariot
  10. God is Great
  11. My Country 'Tis of Thee

Disc 2

  1. We're Gonna Make It
  2. One Time or Another
  3. Blackbird
  4. I Wonder Why
  5. Will It Go Round In Circles
  6. Ain't That Nothin'
  7. God Loves You
  8. Make the Devil Mad (Turn On To Jesus)
  9. Nigger Charlie
  10. Heart Full of Sorrow
  11. Music's My Life

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Billy Preston   Primary Artist,Keyboards,Vocals
Tom Scott   Horn Section
David T. Walker   Guitar
Eugene Bryant   Choir, Chorus
Merry Clayton   Choir, Chorus
Venetta Fields   Choir, Chorus
Patrice Holloway   Choir, Chorus
Jim Horn   Horn Section
Paul Hubinon   Horn Section
George Johnson   Guitar
Louis Johnson   Bass
Manuel Kellough   Drums
Jesse Kirkland   Choir, Chorus
Rocky Peoples   Tenor Saxophone
Duane Rogers   Choir, Chorus
George H.   Guitar
Hubert Head   Keyboards
Merna Matthews   Choir, Chorus
George Bohanon   Horn Section
King Errison   Conga
Douglas Gibbs   Choir, Chorus
Cuck Monari   Horn Section
Clydia King   Choir, Chorus
Charles Garnette   Trumpet
Sherrell Atwood   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

John Lennon   Composer
Paul McCartney   Composer
Billy Preston   Producer
Quincy Jones   Horn Arrangements,String Arrangements
David T. Walker   Arranger
Clarence McDonald   Arranger
Tommy Vicari   Engineer
John Tobler   Liner Notes
Roland Young   Art Direction
Jim McCrary   Sleeve Photo
Traditional   Composer
Eliscu   Composer
Joe Cibere   Illustrations

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