The Dating Game

Number of the beat

Nobody wants to be the fifth wheel, but as the fifth Beatle, Billy Preston was the musical lube that kept the high-strung Let It Be sessions from slipping off the rails. When the prodigiously Afroed keyboardist died of kidney failure on Tuesday, June 6, it came as no surprise to those who knew him: Though Preston was still playing gigs as of last fall, both kidneys had given out and he was on dialysis.

In related news, June 6 also saw the release of Slayer's new Eternal Pyre EP through Hot Topic stores nationwide. Coincidence? As Lucifer says, "Hells no."

The weeks leading up to 6/6/06 were rife with diabolical harbingers. Only days before, onetime Grateful Dead member Vince Welnick became the latest casualty of the band's shadowy "keyboard curse." Like Preston's off-the-bench status with the Beatles, Welnick filled the stool abandoned when two decades' worth of previous Dead ivory-tinklers each successively left the building in their own sad and unromantic ways. Unlike Preston's status with the Beatles -- which led to his being the only musician honored with co-writer credit by the Fab Four -- Welnick was mostly blackballed by the surviving Dead after Jerry Garcia took his final solo. Sonoma County sheriffs declared Welnick's death a suicide, though the means were still unconfirmed at press time. "Friend of the Devil" indeed.

Nastiness always comes in threes, and this current trifecta of morbidity began with Desmond Dekker, suave Jamaican vocalist, who died on May 25. Scoring worldwide hits with "007 (Shantytown)" in 1967 and "Israelites" in '69, Dekker was reggae's first international star. He was preparing for a string of dates in Europe when he was stricken by a fatal heart attack in his rural English home. In "Israelites," the prescient Dekker sang, "After a storm there must be a calm."True that. But we're betting it doesn't last until 6/6/2106.

 
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