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Singer Billy Preston Arrested in Sex Case

August 19, 1991|EDWARD J. BOYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Singer Billy Preston, who wrote the hit ballad "You Are So Beautiful" and played keyboards with the Beatles, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old boy at his home in Malibu, authorities said.

Preston, 45, was arrested for investigation of sexual battery, showing pornographic material to a minor, possessing cocaine and being under the influence of a controlled substance, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy Rafael Estrada.

He was booked at the sheriff's station in Malibu and released after posting $10,000 bail, Estrada said.

The 16-year-old boy told deputies that Preston had picked him up Sunday morning at the intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Trancas Canyon Road, a gathering point for day laborers, Estrada said.

The boy, whose name was withheld because of his age, said the singer began smoking cocaine and showing him pornographic pictures shortly after he entered the car.

Preston then allegedly drove to his Malibu home and took the youth to a barn behind his house, Estrada said. There, the boy told deputies, Preston pushed him to the ground and grabbed him around the chest, Estrada said.

"The juvenile was able to push Preston off, and ran to a neighbor's house," Estrada said.

Deputies went to Preston's home to arrest him at 9:30 a.m., Estrada said, but the performer was not there. They returned a half an hour later and found Preston in the barn with a 19-year-old man, Estrada said. Preston was taken into custody, the deputy said. The 19-year-old was not arrested.

From the early 1960s, when he was a Los Angeles teen-ager performing with some of the biggest names in gospel music, through the mid-1970s when he scored a string of solo hits, Preston rode a wave of musical good fortune.

He recorded with the Beatles, laying down one of pop music's most memorable piano solos on "Get Back." From 1972 to 1974, he had four Top Five hits, including two No. 1 hits: "Will It Go Round in Circles?" and "Nothing From Nothing." He wrote "You Are So Beautiful" for gravel-voiced British rocker Joe Cocker.

He began playing music when he was 3, expressing what he has called "a God-given talent." By his teens he was performing with such gospel stars as the late Rev. James Cleveland and Andrae Crouch.

Since his last album in 1982, he has performed steadily, but without a major record deal.

"The way the business is now, I have to go knock on doors," he told The Times in an interview last year.

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