Hello glorious readers!
As many of you may or may not have figured out by now, (Jeez Ellen probably not figured out, this is literally post three, don’t put on the pressure.) I have a love for what’s considered “the classics.” Bon Jovi, Led Zepplin, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan…you get the idea. It was kind of the music that I grew up with, the sweet nectar that would flow as an endlessly from the radio and into the world and my head in our house, down the street, and everywhere in-between. This was mainly because of influences from my father and siblings, but I thought I’d talk today about one of my all time favorite musicians. The amazing and ever talented, Billy Joel.
I’m probably not going to go too deeply into his history. He’s lived (and is still living) a long and very interesting life, but I thought I’d throw in a few highlights, and also kind of discuss what he’s meant to me as a musician in my life, and some of my favorite songs that have helped me get through some rad or pretty rough nights.
William “Billy” Martin Joel grew up in Levittown, New York (which then changed to Hicksville because of zip codes assignments in 1963) as the son of Rosalind and Howard Joel, who divorced, with Howard moving to Vienna. He has two siblings, one full sister Judith and one half-brother Alexander. When he was growing up, Billy actually wasn’t interested in playing the piano, but his mother continued to insist upon his lessons. Later in life and during high school, Billy would often play in bars to help his mother make ends meet. Because of this, however, during his senior year he wasn’t able to graduate high school because of lack of credits and missing important exams. He was offered the chance to go to summer school, but instead decided to begin his music career, saying “To hell with it. If I’m not going to Columbia University, I’m going to Columbia Records, and you don’t need a high school diploma over there.” (He did eventually receive his high school diploma 25 years after leaving, when he wrote essays to the high school.)
Joel actually didn’t end up signing with Columbia at first. He was a part of a couple bands, which eventually broke up, and signed with Family Productions on his first solo album Cold Springs Harbor. He didn’t really get much attention for this, until he began performing live, with songs like She’s Got a Way and Everybody Loves You Now. In 1973, he was able to sign with Columbia, but was still in contract with Family Productions, until later in the 70’s when the president of Columbia Records bought back the rights to his music and gave the to Joel as a birthday gift. He then recorded albums such as Piano Man, Streetlife Serenade, and Turnstiles. However, one of his first true album hits occurred in 1977 with The Stranger, with four songs hitting the top #25 on Billboard charts (Just the Way You Are, Movin’ Out, Only the Good Die Young, and She’s Always a Woman). His next album 52nd Street was also a huge success, with songs like Big Shot and Honesty. Again and again Billy Joel continued to release new and brilliant works, and I could continue to give you millions of songs and album names and successes, because they are quite numerous.
Some other interesting points in his life might be how in 1986 he was able to play in the Soviet Union, one of the first American rock acts allowed to play after the Berlin Wall went up. Jumping further ahead to 1994, Elton John and Joel also did a “Face to Face” tours, where they became the longest running and most successful tandem in pop music history up to that date. They continued these tours until 2009. In January of 2014 he also played into the New Year in Amway Center, playing tribute to bands such as The Beatles and AC/DC along with his own music.
His career has been extremely extensive and is still ongoing, and if you’re intrigued I would definitely encourage you to check him out. He’s got a lot of different styles going, but some of my favorites do exist on the album The Stranger, specifically with She’s Always a Woman and Vienna. Both of these have gotten me through some very stressful nights, at college specifically. Vienna in that it reminds me to slow down, there’s so much happening in life and I shouldn’t be afraid to take a day off for me so as not to get burnt out. She’s Always a Woman in that I hope to be that kind of a woman, one who’s incredibly strong and intelligent and that can take care of herself. They’re both very beautiful piano ballads and I would highly recommend them if you’re in that kind of mood. As his more upbeat songs go, I definitely love the songs of Uptown Girl, Movin’ Out, Only the Good Die Young, Big Shot, and Piano Man.
Feel free to let me know too if you’re also a huge fan of Billy Joel or if you have any recommendations of classic rock to listen to! I always love trying new things and would love to review or take a listen to anything. My ears are always open.