Significant Songs (14)

 You Are So Beautiful

In 1974, I heard a song by Billy Preston, the soul singer and organ player, who had been known for collaborating with the Beatles. It was a pleasant love song, with an unusual structure, and simple lyrics. Although immediately appealing, it had a throwaway nature, and I didn’t feel the need to rush out and buy a copy. The late-night DJ gave more information after the song had finished. Apparently, it was written by Preston, and Dennis Wilson, a member of the Beach Boys. This interested me, as I was a long-time fan of the Beach Boys, and thought that they were one of the best vocal groups ever.

The following year, on a TV programme, I saw a snippet of Dennis Wilson singing the song. It was at the end of a Beach Boys concert, and he came to the stage alone, and sung the song with immense feeling, and great heart. Despite this, his solo vocal was at best average, and I was left wishing this haunting song had received better treatment. Although the actual dates are a little blurred in my memory, it was very soon after, seemingly only a few days, that I heard the song again, played on daytime radio. This time, it was sung by Joe Cocker, a British vocalist well-known for his soulful ballads, and rocking blues songs. It had been released as a single from his album, which had come out the previous year.

Suddenly, the song had new meaning. Joe Cocker belted it out as if his life depended on it, and during the quiet parts, rendered such emotion, I could literally feel it in my chest. As someone who generally prefers original versions of almost anything, I was once again forced to concede that a cover version was much better. It went further than that; the song was transformed, by the vocal talents of someone who may not have written it, but felt it. Moreover, he could make me feel it, and still does to this day, almost forty years later.

Here is that version, play it very loud. I hope it has the same effect on you.


6 thoughts on “Significant Songs (14)

  1. Pete,

    You’ve taken me back years and years by simply mentioning Billy Preston.

    I heard him in a very small venue in Southern California in about 1972 or ’73. At the time I did not know I was in the presence of Music Royalty, for that is what he was. However, I know he was gifted, giving and approachable – yes the venue was that small.

    Thank you for bringing a memory back to life for me.



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