Jewish Entertainment:
Jewish Actors, Playwrights, Comedians, Musicians

Billy Joel
Jewish Name - William Martin Joel

William Martin "Billy" Joel is a Jewish American pianist, singer-songwriter, and composer. Since releasing his first hit song, "Piano Man," in 1973, Billy Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, according to the RIAA.[3] Billy Joel also has the third best-selling album in the United States with his Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2.[4]

Billy Joel had Top 40 hits in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, achieving 33 Top 40 hits in the United States, all of which Billy Joel wrote himself. Billy Joel is also a six-time Grammy Award winner, a 23-time Grammy nominee and has sold over 150 million records worldwide.[5] Billy Joel was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame (1992), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006). In 2008, Billboard magazine released a list of the Hot 100 All-Time Top Artists to celebrate the US singles chart's 50th anniversary, with Billy Joel positioned at No. 23. With the exception of the 2007 songs "All My Life" and "Christmas in Fallujah," Billy Joel stopped writing and recording pop/rock material after 1993's River of Dreams, but Billy Joel continued to tour extensively until 2010.[6]

Early life

Billy Joel was born in the Bronx[1] on born May 9, 1949 and raised in Hicksville, New York. His father, Howard (born Helmuth), was born in Germany, the son of German merchant and manufacturer Karl Amson Joel, who, after the advent of the Nazi regime, emigrated to Switzerland and later to the United States. Billy Joel's mother, Rosalind Nyman, was born in England to Philip and Rebecca Nyman. Both Joel's parents were Jewish. They divorced in 1960, and his father moved to Vienna, Austria. Billy has a sister, Judith Billy Joel, and a half-brother, Alexander Billy Joel, who is an acclaimed classical conductor in Europe and currently chief musical director of the Staatstheater Braunschweig.[7]

Joel's father was an accomplished classical pianist. Billy reluctantly began piano lessons at an early age, at his mother's insistence; his teachers included the noted American pianist Morton Estrin[8] and musician/songwriter Timothy Ford. His interest in music, rather than sports, was a source of teasing and bullying in his early years. (Billy Joel has said in interviews that his piano instructor also taught ballet. Her name was Frances Neiman, and she was a Juilliard trained musician. She gave both classic piano and ballet lessons in the studio attached to the rear of her house, leading neighborhood bullies to mistakenly think Billy Joel was learning to dance.)[citation needed] As a teenager, Billy Joel took up boxing so that Billy Joel would be able to defend himself. Billy Joel boxed successfully on the amateur Golden Gloves circuit for a short time, winning twenty-two bouts, but abandoned the sport shortly after having his nose broken in his twenty-fourth boxing match.[9]

Billy Joel attended Hicksville High School with the class of 1967. However, Billy Joel did not graduate. At the time, Billy Joel was helping his single mother make ends meet by playing at a piano bar, and this interfered with his school attendance.[10] After his senior year, Billy Joel still was short of the total number of credits Billy Joel needed to graduate. Rather than attend summer school, Billy Joel decided to quit high school without a diploma in order to begin a career in music. Billy Joel recounted, "I told them, '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'."[11] Columbia did, in fact, become the label that eventually signed him. In 1992, Billy Joel submitted essays to the school board and was awarded his diploma at Hicksville High's annual graduation ceremony, 25 years after Billy Joel had left.[12]

Music career

Early career

Upon seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Billy Joel decided to pursue a full-time musical career, and set about finding a local Long Island band to join. Eventually Billy Joel founded the Echoes, a group that specialized in British Invasion covers. The Echoes became a popular New York attraction, which convinced him to leave high school to become a professional musician. Billy Joel began playing for the Echoes when Billy Joel was 14 years old.[13]

Billy Joel began playing recording sessions with the Echoes in 1965, when Billy Joel was 16 years old. Billy Joel played piano on several recordings produced by Shadow Morton, including (as claimed by Billy Joel, but denied by songwriter Ellie Greenwich) the Shangri-Las' Leader of the Pack,[14] as well as several records released through Kama Sutra Productions. During this time, the Echoes started to play numerous late-night shows.

Later, in 1965, the Echoes changed their name to the Emeralds and then to the Lost Souls. For two years, Billy Joel played sessions and performed with the Lost Souls. In 1967, Billy Joel left that band to join the Hassles, a Long Island band that had signed a contract with United Artists Records. Over the next year and a half, they released The Hassles in 1967, Hour of the Wolf in 1968, and four singles, all of which failed commercially. Following The Hassles' demise in 1969, Billy Joel formed the duo Attila with Hassles drummer Jon Small. Attila released their eponymous debut album in July 1970, and disbanded the following October. The reason for the group's break-up has been attributed to Joel's affair with Small's wife, Elizabeth, whom Billy Joel eventually married.[15]

Cold Spring Harbor

Billy Joel signed his first solo record contract with Artie Ripp's Family Productions, and subsequently recorded his first solo album. Cold Spring Harbor (a reference to the Long Island town of the same name), was released in 1971. However, Ripp mastered and released the album at the wrong speed, resulting in Joel's voice sounding a semitone too high. In addition, the onerous terms of Ripp's Family Productions contract also guaranteed Billy Joel very little money from the sales of his albums.

Popular cuts such as "She's Got a Way" and "Everybody Loves You Now" were originally released on this album, although they did not gain much attention until released as live performances in 1981 on Songs in the Attic. Since then, they have become favorite concert numbers. Cold Spring Harbor gained a second chance on the charts in 1984, when Columbia reissued the album after slowing it down to the correct speed. The album reached #158 in the US and #95 in the UK nearly a year later.

Billy Joel gigged locally in New York City in the fall of 1971 and moved out to Los Angeles early in 1972, adopting the stage name Bill Martin.[16] While in California Billy Joel did a six month gig in The Executive Room piano bar on Wilshire Boulevard. It was there Billy Joel composed his signature hit "Piano Man" about the various patrons of the lounge. Subsequently Billy Joel toured with his band members (Rhys Clark on drums, Al Hertzberg on guitar, and Larry Russell on bass) until the end of June 1972 throughout the US and Puerto Rico, opening for headliners such as J. Geils Band, The Beach Boys and Taj Mahal. At the Mar y sol festival in Puerto Rico, Billy Joel electrified the crowd and got a big boost for his career.[17]

In addition Philadelphia radio station WMMR-FM started playing a concert recording of Billy Joel performing his "Captain Jack," which became an underground hit on the East Coast. Herb Gordon, an executive of Columbia Records, heard Joel's music and made his company aware of Joel's talent. Billy Joel signed a recording contract with Columbia in 1972 and moved to Los Angeles. Billy Joel lived there for three years (and has since declared that those three years were a big mistake),[18] returning to New York City in 1975.

Early Columbia years: 1973–1976

Joel's experiences in Los Angeles connected him with record company executives, who bought out his contract with Ripp under the condition that the Family Productions logo be displayed alongside the Columbia logo for the next ten albums, and Family Productions would receive a 25-cent royalty on every Billy Joel album sold. The president of CBS/Columbia Records at the time, Walter Yetnikoff, bought back the rights to Joel's songs from Artie Ripp in the late 1970s, giving the rights to the songs back to Billy Joel as a birthday gift.[19][20] However, Yetnikoff notes in the documentary film The Last Play at Shea that Billy Joel ultimately had to threaten Ripp in order to finalize the deal for the song rights. So, although Ripp continued to make money on Joel's albums, Billy Joel at least had ownership of his songs through the help of the president of his new record label.

The stand-out track from his first album for Columbia Records, Piano Man, was the title track, which, despite only making it to #25 on the Billboard Hot 100, stands as Joel's signature song (Billy Joel ends nearly all of his concerts with it).

Joel's touring band changed as well in 1973. Don Evans replaced Al Hertzberg on guitar, and Patrick McDonald took over the bass position previously held by Larry Russell, and was then replaced in late 1974 by Doug Stegmeyer, who remained with Billy Joel until 1989. Rhys Clark returned as drummer, Tom Whitehorse on banjo and pedal steel and then Johnny Almond on sax and keyboards rounded out the band. Joel's infectious spirit and talent galvanized the band into a tight performing unit, touring the U.S. and Canada extensively and appearing on the popular music shows of the day. Joel's songwriting was now attracting more attention; Helen Reddy recorded "You're My Home" (from Piano Man) in 1974.

Billy Joel remained in Los Angeles to write Streetlife Serenade, his second album on the Columbia label. It was around this time that Jon Troy, an old friend from the New York neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, acted as Joel's manager although Billy Joel would soon be replaced by Joel's wife Elizabeth.[21] References to both suburbia and the inner city pepper the album.

The stand-out track on the album is "The Entertainer", a #34 hit in the U.S. which picks up thematically where "Piano Man" left off. Billy Joel was upset that "Piano Man" had been significantly edited down to make it more radio-friendly, and in "The Entertainer," Billy Joel refers to the edit with sarcastic lines such as "If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05", alluding to shortening of singles for radio play, as compared with the longer versions that appear on albums. Although Streetlife Serenade is often considered one of Joel's weaker albums (Billy Joel has confirmed his distaste for the album), it nevertheless contains some notable tracks, including the title track, "Los Angelenos" and the instrumental "Root Beer Rag", which was a staple of his live set in the 1970s and was resurrected frequently in 2007 and 2008. Streetlife Serenade also marks the beginning of a more confident vocal style on Joel's part.

In late 1975, Billy Joel played piano and organ on several tracks on Bo Diddley's The 20th Anniversary of Rock 'n' Roll all-star album.

Disenchanted with the L.A. music scene, Billy Joel returned to New York in 1976. There Billy Joel recorded Turnstiles, for which Billy Joel used his own hand-picked musicians in the studio for the first time, and also adopted a more hands-on role. Songs were initially recorded at Caribou Ranch with members of Elton John's band, and produced by famed Chicago producer James William Guercio, but Billy Joel was dissatisfied with the results. The songs were re-recorded in New York, and Billy Joel took over, producing the album himself.

The minor hit "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" echoed the Phil Spector sound, and was covered by Ronnie Spector (in a 2008 radio interview, Billy Joel said Billy Joel does not perform "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" in his live shows anymore because it is in too high a key and "shreds" his vocal cords.) The album also featured the song "New York State of Mind", a bluesy, jazzy epic that has become one of Joel's signature songs, and which was later covered by fellow Columbia labelmates Barbra Streisand, on her 1977 Streisand Superman album, and as a duet with Tony Bennett, on his 2001 Playing with My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues album. Other songs on the album include "Summer, Highland Falls", "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)" and "Say Goodbye to Hollywood", which became a Top 40 hit in 1981 in a live version. Songs such as the powerful "Prelude/Angry Young Man" have become a mainstay of his concerts.

The Stranger and 52nd Street

For The Stranger, Columbia Records teamed Billy Joel with producer Phil Ramone. The album was released in September 1977, and yielded four Top-25 hits on the Billboard charts in the US: "Just the Way You Are" (#3), "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" (#17), "Only the Good Die Young" (#24), and "She's Always a Woman" (#17). Album sales exceeded Columbia's previous top-selling album, Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water,[22] and was certified multi-platinum. His first-ever Top Ten album, it reached #2 on the charts. Ramone subsequently produced every Billy Joel studio release up to Storm Front, initially released in 1989. The Stranger also featured "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", an album-oriented rock classic, which has become one of his best-known songs.

The Stranger netted Billy Joel Grammy awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, for "Just the Way You Are", which was written as a gift to his wife Elizabeth. Billy Joel received a late night phone call to his hotel room in Paris (Billy Joel was on tour) in February 1979, letting him know Billy Joel had won in both categories.[23]

Billy Joel faced high expectations on his next album. 52nd Street was named after the famous street of the same name which hosted many of the world's premier jazz venues and performers throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Fans purchased over seven million copies on the strength of the hits "My Life" (#3), "Big Shot" (#14), and "Honesty" (#24). This helped 52nd Street become Joel's first #1 album. "My Life" eventually became the theme song for a new US television sitcom, Bosom Buddies, which featured actor Tom Hanks in one of his earliest roles. The album won Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Album of the Year. 52nd Street was the first album to be released on compact disc when it went on sale alongside Sony's CD player CDP-101 on October 1, 1982, in Japan.[24]

Despite the publicity photos and album cover showing Billy Joel holding a trumpet, Billy Joel does not play the instrument on the album, though two tracks on the album do feature some well-known jazz trumpeters. Freddie Hubbard plays two solos on "Zanzibar" and Jon Faddis joins Michael Brecker and Randy Brecker in the horn section for "Half a Mile Away".

In 1979, Billy Joel traveled to Havana, Cuba, to participate in the historic Havana Jam festival that took place between March 2–4, alongside Rita Coolidge, Kris Kristofferson; Stephen Stills, the CBS Jazz All-Stars, the Trio of Doom, Fania All-Stars, Billy Swan, Bonnie Bramlett, Mike Finnegan, Weather Report, plus an array of Cuban artists such as Irakere, Pacho Alonso, Tata Güines and Orquesta Aragón.[25] His performance is captured on Ernesto Juan Castellanos's documentary Havana Jam '79.

Early 1980s

The success of his piano-driven ballads like "Just the Way You Are," "She's Always a Woman" and "Honesty" never sat well with Billy Joel, as many critics were quick to slap the "balladeer" tag on him. With Glass Houses, Billy Joel attacked the new wave popularity with aplomb and delivered several harder-edged songs custom made for the live shows in arenas and stadiums Billy Joel was by then playing almost exclusively. The front cover showed Joel's real-life modern glass house. The album spent 6 weeks at #1 on the Billboard chart and yielded such hits as "You May Be Right" (used as the theme song, covered by Southside Johnny, for the CBS mid-1990s sitcom Dave's World) (#7, May 1980), "Close To The Borderline" (B-side of the "You May Be Right" single), "Don't Ask Me Why" (#19, September 1980), "Sometimes a Fantasy" (#36, November 1980) and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me", which became Joel's first Billboard #1 song (for two weeks) in July 1980. "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" spent 11 weeks in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was the 7th biggest hit of 1980 according to American Top 40. Glass Houses won the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male. It would also win the American Music Award for Favorite Album, Pop/Rock category. The album's closing song, "Through The Long Night", (B-side of the "It's Still Rock & Roll to Me" single) was a lullaby that featured Billy Joel harmonizing with himself in a song Billy Joel says was inspired by The Beatles' "Yes It Is."[17]

His next release, Songs in the Attic, was composed of live performances of less well-known songs from the beginning of his career. It was recorded during larger US arenas and intimate night club shows in June and July 1980. This release introduced many fans, who discovered Billy Joel when The Stranger became a smash in 1977, to many of his earlier compositions. The album reached #8 on the Billboard chart and produced two hit singles: "Say Goodbye to Hollywood" (#17), and "She's Got a Way" (#23). It sold over 3 million copies. Though not as successful as some of his previous albums, the album was still considered a success by Billy Joel.[17]

The next wave of Joel's career commenced with the recording of The Nylon Curtain. With The Nylon Curtain, Billy Joel became more ambitious with his songwriting, trying his hand at writing topical songs like "Allentown" and "Goodnight Saigon." Billy Joel has stated that Billy Joel wanted the album to communicate his feelings about the American dream and how changes in American politics during the Reagan years meant that "all of a sudden you weren't going to be able to inherit [the kind of life] your old man had."[26] Billy Joel also tried to be more ambitious in his use of the recording studio. Billy Joel said that Billy Joel wanted to "create a sonic masterpiece" on The Nylon Curtain. So Billy Joel spent more time in the studio, crafting the sound of the album, than Billy Joel had on any previous album.[26] Work began on The Nylon Curtain in the fall of 1981 although Joel's work on the album was temporary delayed when Billy Joel was involved in a serious motorcycle accident on Long Island on April 15, 1982. Still, Billy Joel quickly recovered from his injuries, and the album only ended up being delayed by a few weeks.

In 1982, Billy Joel embarked on a brief tour in support of the album. From one of the final shows of the tour, Billy Joel made his first video special, Live from Long Island, which was recorded at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on December 30, 1982. It was originally broadcast on HBO in 1983 before it became available on VHS.[27]

The Nylon Curtain went to #7 on the charts, partially due to heavy airplay on MTV for the videos to the singles "Allentown" and "Pressure". "Allentown" spent six weeks at a peak position of #17 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the most-played radio songs of 1982, pushing it into 1983's year-end Top 70, and making it the most successful song from The Nylon Curtain album, besting "Pressure". which peaked at #20 (where it resided for three weeks) and "Goodnight Saigon" which reached #56 on U.S. charts.[28]
Christie Brinkley, An Innocent Man, and The Bridge

The album An Innocent Man was compiled as a tribute to the rock and roll music of the 1950s and 1960s, and also resulted in Joel's second Billboard #1 hit, "Tell Her About It", which was the first single off the album in the summer of 1983. The album itself reached #4 on the charts and #2 in UK. It also boasted 6 top-30 singles, the most of any album in Joel's catalog. At the time that the album came, WCBS-FM began playing "The Longest Time" both in regular rotation and on the Doo Wop Shop. Many fans wanted this to be the next single released in the fall, but that October, "Uptown Girl", Joel's next big hit from An Innocent Man, would be released. According to numerous interviews with Billy Joel, this song was initially written about his relationship with his then-girlfriend Elle Macpherson, but it ended up also becoming about his soon-to-be wife Christie Brinkley (both women being two of the most famous supermodels of the 1980s).[29][30] The song became a worldwide hit upon its release, #3 in the U.S. and Joel's sole #1 in the United Kingdom. Also, the James Brown-inspired song "Easy Money" would be featured in the 1983 Rodney Dangerfield film of the same name.[31]

In December the title song, "An Innocent Man", would be released as a single and would peak at #10 in the U.S. and #8 in the UK, early in 1984. That March, "The Longest Time" would finally be released as a single, peaking at #14 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. That summer, "Leave a Tender Moment Alone" would be released and hit #27 while "Keeping the Faith" would peak at #18 in January 1985. In the video for "Keeping the Faith", Christie Brinkley also plays the "redhead girl in a Chevrolet". An Innocent Man was also nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, but lost to Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Billy Joel would participate in the USA For Africa We Are The World project in 1985, capping off a series of successful singles for Billy Joel.

Following the success of An Innocent Man, Billy Joel had been approached to release an album of his most successful singles. This was not the first time this topic had come up, but Billy Joel had initially considered "Greatest Hits" albums as marking the end of one's career. This time, Billy Joel agreed, and Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2 was released as a 4-sided album and 2-CD set, with the songs in sequence of when they were released. The new songs "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" and "The Night Is Still Young" were recorded and released as singles to support the album; both reached the top 40, peaking at #9 and #34, respectively.
Billy Joel live on November 7, 2006

Greatest Hits was highly successful and has since been certified double diamond by the RIAA for over 11.5 million copies (23 million units) sold. To date it is tied for the third best selling album in American music history according to the RIAA.

Coinciding with the Greatest Hits album release, Billy Joel released a 2-volume Video Album that was a compilation of the promotional videos Billy Joel had recorded from 1977 to the present time. Along with videos for the new singles off the Greatest Hits album, Billy Joel also recorded a video for his first hit, "Piano Man", for this project.

Though it broke into the Top Ten, The Bridge was not a success in relation to some of Joel's other albums, but it yielded the hits "A Matter of Trust" and "Modern Woman" from the film Ruthless People, a dark comedy from the directors of Airplane! (both #10). In a departure from his "piano man" persona, Billy Joel is shown in its video playing a Les Paul-autographed Gibson guitar. The ballad "This is the Time" also charted, peaking at #18, and has been a favorite on the prom circuit ever since. The reason "Modern Woman" has been left off many of Joel's compilation sets (the exception appears to be My Lives) is that Billy Joel has since said in interviews Billy Joel does not care for the song.[citation needed]

On November 18, 1986, an extended version of the song "Big Man On Mulberry Street" was used on a Season 3 episode of Moonlighting. The episode itself was also titled "Big Man on Mulberry Street." In a dream sequence, Maddie Hayes envisions David Addison with his ex-wife. An extra horn solo was added to the song.

The Bridge was also Joel's last album to carry the Family Productions logo, finally severing his ties with Artie Ripp. Billy Joel has also stated in many interviews, most recently in a 2008 interview in Performing Songwriter magazine, that Billy Joel does not think The Bridge is a good album.

Shortly after The Bridge tour ended in late 1987, Billy Joel completed voice work on Disney's Oliver & Company, released in 1988, a loose adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. Billy Joel brought both his acting and musical talents to the film as Dodger. For the film, Billy Joel recorded a song titled "Why Should I Worry?" Critics were generally positive toward the film, and pointed to Joel's acting contribution as one of its highlights, despite it being his first acting job. In interviews, Billy Joel explained that Billy Joel took the job due to his love of Disney cartoons as a child.

Trip to the Soviet Union

In October 1986, Billy Joel and his handlers started planning a trip to the Soviet Union. Billy Joel became one of the first American rock acts to play there since the Berlin Wall went up, a fact not lost on history buff Billy Joel.[32] There were live performances at indoor arenas in Moscow, Leningrad and Tbilisi. Billy Joel and his family (including young daughter Alexa) and his full touring band made the trip in August 1987. The entourage was filmed for television and video to offset the cost of the trip, and the concerts were simulcast on radio around the world.

Most of that audience took a long while to warm up to Joel's energetic show, something that never had happened in other countries Billy Joel had performed in. According to Billy Joel, each time the fans were hit with the bright lights, anybody who seemed to be enjoying themselves froze. In addition, people who were "overreacting" were removed by security.[33]

The album КОНЦЕРТ (Russian for "Concert") was released in October 1987. Singer Peter Hewlitt was brought in to hit the high notes on his most vocally challenging songs, like "An Innocent Man." Billy Joel also did versions of The Beatles' classic "Back in the U.S.S.R." and Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'". It has been estimated that Billy Joel lost more than $1 million of his own money on the trip and concerts, but Billy Joel has said the goodwill Billy Joel was shown there was well worth it.[17]
Storm Front and River of Dreams

The release of the album Storm Front coincided with major changes in Joel's career and inaugurated a period of serious upheaval in his business affairs. In August 1989, just before the album was released, Billy Joel fired his manager (and former brother-in-law) Frank Weber after an audit revealed major discrepancies in Weber's accounting. Billy Joel subsequently sued Weber for $90 million, claiming fraud and breach of fiduciary duty and in January 1990 Billy Joel was awarded $2 million in a partial judgement against Weber; in April, the court dismissed a $30 million countersuit filed by Weber.[34]

The first single for the album "We Didn't Start the Fire", was released in September 1989 and it became Joel's third and most recent US #1 hit, spending two weeks at the top; it was also Billboard's second-last #1 single of the 1980s. Storm Front was released in October, and it eventually became Joel's first #1 album since Glass Houses, nine years earlier. Storm Front was Joel's first album since Turnstiles to be recorded without Phil Ramone as producer. For this album, Billy Joel wanted a new sound, and worked with Mick Jones of Foreigner fame. Billy Joel also revamped his backing band, firing everyone, save drummer Liberty DeVitto, guitarist David Brown, and saxophone player Mark Rivera, and bringing in new faces, including talented multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero. Storm Front's second single, "I Go to Extremes" made it to #6 in early 1990. The album was also notable for its song "Leningrad", written after Billy Joel met a clown in the Soviet city of that name during his tour in 1987, and "The Downeaster Alexa", written to underscore the plight of fishermen on Long Island who are barely able to make ends meet. Another well-known single from the album is the ballad "And So It Goes" (#37 in late 1990). The song was originally written in 1983, around the time Billy Joel was writing songs for An Innocent Man; but "And So It Goes" did not fit that album's retro theme, so it was held back until Storm Front. Billy Joel said in a 1996 Masterclass session in Pittsburgh that Storm Front was a turbulent album and that "And So It Goes," as the last song on the album, portrayed the calm and tranquility that often follows a violent thunderstorm.

In the summer of 1992, Billy Joel filed another $90 million lawsuit against his former lawyer Allen Grubman, alleging a wide range of offenses including fraud, breach of fiduciary responsibility, malpractice and breach of contract[35] but the case was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.[36]

Billy Joel started work on River of Dreams in 1992 and finished the album in early 1993. Its cover art was a colorful painting by Christie Brinkley that was a series of scenes from each of the songs on the album. The eponymous first single was the last top 10 hit Billy Joel has penned to date, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 & ranking at #21 on Billboard's 1993 year-end Hot 100 chart. In addition to the title track, the album includes the hits "All About Soul" (with Color Me Badd on backing vocals) and "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)", written for his daughter, Alexa. A radio remix version of "All About Soul" can be found on The Essential Billy Joel (2001), and a demo version appears on My Lives (2005). The song "The Great Wall of China" was written about his ex-manager Frank Weber and was a regular in the setlist for Joel's 2006 tour. "2000 Years" was prominent in the millennium concert at Madison Square Garden, December 31, 1999, and "Famous Last Words" closed the book on Joel's pop songwriting for more than a decade.

On August 25, 1994, Billy Joel and second wife Christie Brinkley divorced.

1997's "To Make You Feel My Love" and "Hey Girl" both charted from Joel's Greatest Hits Volume III album. Billy Joel wrote and recorded the song "Shameless" that was later covered by Garth Brooks and reached number 1 on Billboard's country charts. Billy Joel performed with Brooks during his Central Park concert in 1997 with an estimated 980,000 people in attendance, the largest audience to attend a U.S. concert.[citation needed] To add on to his achievements Billy Joel was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

On December 31, 1999, Billy Joel performed at New York's Madison Square Garden. At the time, Billy Joel said that it would be his last concert. The concert (dubbed The Night of the 2000 Years) ran for close to four hours and was later released as 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert.

In 2001, Billy Joel released Fantasies & Delusions, a collection of classical piano pieces. All were composed by Billy Joel and performed by Richard Joo. Billy Joel often uses bits of these songs as interludes in live performances, and some of them are part of the score for the hit show Movin' Out. The album topped the classical charts at #1. Billy Joel performed "New York State of Mind" live on September 21, 2001, as part of the America: A Tribute to Heroes benefit concert, and on October 20, 2001, along with "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)", at the Concert for New York City in Madison Square Garden. That night, Billy Joel also performed "Your Song" with Elton John.

In 2005, Columbia released a box set, My Lives, which is largely a compilation of demos, b-sides, live/alternate versions and even a few Top 40 hits. The compilation also includes the Umixit software, in which people can remix "Zanzibar", "Only the Good Die Young", "Keepin' The Faith", and live versions of "I Go to Extremes" and "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" with their PC. Also, a DVD of a show from the River of Dreams tour is included.

On January 7, 2006, Billy Joel began a tour across the United States. Having not written, or at least released, any new songs in 13 years, Billy Joel featured a sampling of songs from throughout his career, including major hits as well as obscure tunes like "Zanzibar" and "All for Leyna". His tour included an unprecedented 12 sold-out concerts over several months at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The singer's stint of 12 shows at Madison Square Garden broke a previous record set by New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, who played 10 sold-out shows at the same arena. The record earned Billy Joel the first retired number (12) in the arena owned by a non-athlete. This honor has also been given to Billy Joel at the Wells Fargo Center (Philadelphia) (formerly the Wachovia Center) in Philadelphia where a banner in the colors of the Philadelphia Flyers is hung honoring Joel's 46 Philadelphia sold-out shows. Billy Joel also had a banner raised in his honor for being the highest grossing act in the history of the Times Union Center (formerly the Knickerbocker Arena and Pepsi Arena) in Albany, New York. This honor was given to him as part of the April 17, 2007, show Billy Joel did there. On June 13, 2006, Columbia released 12 Gardens Live, a double album containing 32 live recordings from a collection of the 12 different shows at Madison Square Garden during Joel's 2006 tour.

Billy Joel visited the United Kingdom and Ireland for the first time in many years as part of the European leg of his 2006 tour. On July 31, 2006, Billy Joel performed a free concert in Rome, with the Colosseum as the backdrop. Organizers estimated 500,000 people turned out for the concert, which was opened by Bryan Adams.

Billy Joel toured South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii in late 2006, and subsequently toured the Southeastern United States in February and March 2007 before hitting the Midwest in the spring of 2007. On January 3 of that year, news was leaked to the New York Post that Billy had recorded a new song with lyrics—this being the first new song with lyrics he'd written in almost 14 years.[37] The song, titled "All My Life", was Joel's newest single (with second track "You're My Home", live from Madison Square Garden 2006 tour) and was released into stores on February 27, 2007.[38] On February 4, Billy Joel sang the national anthem for Super Bowl XLI, becoming the first to sing the national anthem twice at a Super Bowl. and on April 17, 2007, Billy Joel was honored in Albany, New York, for his ninth concert at the Times Union Center. Billy Joel is now holding the highest box office attendance of any artist to play at the arena. A banner was raised in his honor marking this achievement.

On December 1, 2007, Billy Joel premiered his new song "Christmas in Fallujah."[39] The song was performed by Cass Dillon, a new Long Island based musician, as Billy Joel felt it should be sung by someone in a soldier's age range. The track was dedicated to servicemen based in Iraq. Billy Joel wrote it in September 2007 after reading numerous letters sent to him from American soldiers in Iraq. "Christmas in Fallujah" is only the second pop/rock song released by Billy Joel since 1993's River of Dreams. Proceeds from the song benefitted the Homes For Our Troops foundation.


On January 26, 2008, Billy Joel performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra celebrating the 151st anniversary of the Academy of Music. Billy Joel premiered his new classical piece titled, "Waltz No. 2 (Steinway Hall)". Billy Joel also played many of his less well-known pieces with full orchestral backing, including the rarely performed Nylon Curtain songs "Scandinavian Skies" and "Where's the Orchestra?".

On March 10, 2008, Billy Joel inducted his friend John Mellencamp into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. During his induction speech, Billy Joel said the following to Mellencamp:

“Don’t let this club membership change you, John. Stay ornery, stay mean. We need you to be pissed off, and restless, because no matter what they tell us—we know, this country is going to hell in a handcart. This country’s been hijacked. You know it and I know it. People are worried. People are scared, and people are angry. People need to hear a voice like yours that’s out there to echo the discontent that’s out there in the heartland. They need to hear stories about it. [Audience applauds] They need to hear stories about frustration, alienation and desperation. They need to know that somewhere out there somebody feels the way that they do, in the small towns and in the big cities. They need to hear it. And it doesn’t matter if they hear it on a jukebox, in the local gin mill, or in a goddamn truck commercial, because they ain’t gonna hear it on the radio anymore. They don’t care how they hear it, as long as they hear it good and loud and clear the way you’ve always been saying it all along. You’re right, John, this is still our country. ”

Joel's staying power as a touring act continues to the present day. Billy Joel sold out 10 concerts at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut from May to July 2008. Mohegan Sun honored him with a banner displaying his name and the number 10 to hang in the arena. On June 19, 2008, Billy Joel played a concert at the grand re-opening of Caesars Windsor (formerly Casino Windsor) in Windsor, Ontario, Canada to an invite-only crowd for Casino VIPs. His mood was light, and joke-filled, even introducing himself as "Billy Joel's dad" and stating "you guys overpaid to see a fat bald guy." Billy Joel also admitted that Canadian folk-pop musician Gordon Lightfoot was the musical inspiration for "She's Always A Woman".[40]

On July 16, 2008, and July 18, 2008, Billy Joel played the final concerts at Shea Stadium before its demolition. His guests included Tony Bennett, Don Henley, John Mayer, John Mellencamp, Steven Tyler, Roger Daltrey, Garth Brooks, and Paul McCartney. The concerts were featured in the 2010 documentary film Last Play at Shea. The film was released on DVD on February 8, 2011. The CD and DVD of the show, Live at Shea Stadium were released on March 8, 2011.

On December 11, 2008, Billy Joel recorded his own rendition of "Christmas in Fallujah" during a concert at Acer Arena in Sydney and released it as a live single in Australia only. It is the only official release of Billy Joel performing "Christmas in Fallujah", as Cass Dillon sang on the 2007 studio recording and the handful of times the song was played live in 2007. Billy Joel sang the song throughout his December 2008 tour of Australia.

On May 19, 2009, Joel's former drummer, Liberty DeVitto, filed a lawsuit in NYC claiming Billy Joel and Sony Music owed DeVitto over 10 years of royalty payments. DeVitto has never been given songwriting credit on any of Joel's songs, but Billy Joel claims that Billy Joel helped write some of them.[41] In April 2010, it was announced that Billy Joel and DeVitto amicably resolved the lawsuit.[42]

2011 re-releases

2011 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of Joel's first album, Cold Spring Harbor. According to Billy Joel's website, in commemoration of this anniversary, "Columbia/Legacy Recordings will celebrate the occasion with a definitive reissue project of newly restored and expanded Legacy editions of the complete Billy Joel catalog, newly curated collections of rarities from the vaults, previously unavailable studio tracks and live performances, home video releases and more."[43] The album Piano Man was re-released in a 2-disc Legacy edition in November 2011.[43]

Face-to-Face tours

Beginning in 1994, Billy Joel toured extensively with Elton John on a series of "Face to Face" tours, making them the longest running and most successful concert tandem in pop music history.[44] During these shows, the two have played their own songs, each other's songs and performed duets. They grossed over US $46 million in just 24 dates in their sold out[45] 2003 tour. Billy Joel and John resumed the Face to Face tour in March 2009[45] and it ended again, at least for the time being, in March 2010 in Albany, NY at the Times Union Center. In February 2010, Billy Joel denied rumors in the trade press that Billy Joel canceled a summer 2010 leg of the tour, claiming there were never any dates booked and that Billy Joel intended to take the year off.[46] Billy Joel told Rolling Stone magazine: "We’ll probably pick it up again. It’s always fun playing with him."
Other ventures

In 1996, Billy Joel merged his long-held love of boating[47] with his desire for a second career. Billy Joel formed, with Long Island boating businessman Peter Needham, the Long Island Boat Company.[48]

In November 2010, Billy Joel opened a shop on Oyster Bay, Long Island to manufacture custom-made, retro-styled motorcycles and accessories.[49]

On March 22, 2011, Billy Joel, as part of a fund raising event for impoverished children in the United States, performed with some of today's top teen artists, such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and Rebecca Black. Billy Joel performed "Summer Highland Falls" with Justin Bieber as a cameo.

In 2011, Billy Joel announced that Billy Joel was releasing an autobiography that Billy Joel had written with Fred Schruers, titled The Book of Billy Joel: A Memoir. The book was originally going to be released in June 2011, but in March 2011 Billy Joel decided against publishing the book and officially cancelled his deal with HarperCollins. Rolling Stone noted, "HarperCollins acquired the book project for $3 million in 2008. [However,] Billy Joel is expected to return his advance on that sum to the publisher."[50] According to Billboard, "the HarperCollins book was billed as an 'emotional ride' that would detail the music legend's failed marriage to Christie Brinkley, as well as his battles with substance abuse."[51] In explaining his decision to cancel the book's release, Billy Joel stated, "It took working on writing a book to make me realize that I'm not all that interested in talking about the past, and that the best expression of my life and its ups and downs has been and remains my music."[52]

Personal life

Billy Joel performing in 2007 in Florida.

Marriages, relationships, and family

Billy Joel married his business manager, Elizabeth Weber Small, on September 5, 1973. She was the former wife of his music partner, Jon Small, in the short-lived duo Attila. They divorced on July 20, 1982.

Billy Joel mentioned in a television interview on the UK's Channel Five that Billy Joel had dated Elle Macpherson in the 1980s prior to his marriage to Christie Brinkley. Billy Joel has also said that the songs "This Night" and "And So It Goes" were written about his relationship with Macpherson.[53]

Billy Joel married Christie Brinkley on March 23, 1985. Their daughter, Alexa Ray Billy Joel, was born December 29, 1985.[54][55] Alexa was given the middle name of Ray after Ray Charles, one of Joel's musical idols.[56] Billy Joel and Brinkley divorced on August 25, 1994, although the couple remain friendly.

On October 2, 2004, Billy Joel married 23-year-old Katie Lee. At the time of the wedding, Billy Joel was 55. Joel's daughter, Alexa Ray, then 18, served as maid-of-honor. Joel's second wife, Christie Brinkley, attended the union and gave the couple her blessing. Lee works as a restaurant correspondent for the PBS show, George Hirsch: Living it Up!. In 2006, Katie Lee hosted Bravo's Top Chef. She did not return for a second season, instead going on tour with her husband. She then began writing a weekly column in Hamptons magazine, and became a field correspondent for the entertainment television show Extra. On June 17, 2009, both confirmed that they had split after five years of marriage.[57]


Billy Joel battled depression for many years. In 1970, a career downturn and personal problems aggravated his condition. Billy Joel left a suicide note (which inspired the lyrics to "Tomorrow Is Today") and attempted to commit suicide by drinking furniture polish, saying later, "I drank furniture polish. It looked tastier than bleach."[17] His drummer assistant, Jon Small, rushed him to the hospital. Billy Joel checked into Meadowbrook Hospital, where Billy Joel was put on suicide watch and received treatment for depression.[58] Billy Joel later recorded "You're Only Human (Second Wind)" as a message to help prevent teen suicide.

Substance abuse treatment

In 2002, Billy Joel entered Silver Hill Hospital, a substance abuse and psychiatric center in New Canaan, Connecticut. In March 2005, Billy Joel checked into the Betty Ford Center,[59] where Billy Joel spent 30 days for the treatment of alcohol-related problems.[60]


Although Billy Joel has donated money to Democratic candidates running for office,[61] Billy Joel has never publicly affiliated himself with the Democratic Party. Although Billy Joel isn't known for publicly endorsing political candidates, Billy Joel did play a benefit with Bruce Springsteen to raise money for Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008.[62] Billy Joel has also played at benefit concerts that have helped raise funds for political causes. However, Billy Joel has said about musicians endorsing political candidates, "People who pay for your tickets, I don't think they want to hear who you're going to vote for and how you think they should vote."[63]

Billy Joel was born to non-observant Jewish parents and considers himself a cultural Jew.

“My parents were both from Jewish families. I was not brought up Jewish in any religious way. My circumcision was as Jewish as they got. I used to go to Roman Catholic church with my friends, and when I was 11, I got baptized in a Church of Christ in Hicksville. I’m a cultural Jew. I like the Lower East Side humor, the food. I think the Yiddish language is terrifically expressive. Does that make me a complete Jew or a partial Jew? I’m not really sure.[64] ”

During a 2010 interview on The Howard Stern Show, Billy Joel referred to himself as an atheist.[65]

Billy Joel Band

Awards and achievements

Despite having never graduated from high school because of a missed exam,[66] Billy Joel has been presented with multiple honorary doctorates:

Doctor of Humane Letters from Fairfield University (1991)
Doctor of Music from Berklee College of Music (1993)
Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University (1997)
Doctor of Music from Southampton College (2000)
Doctor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University (2006)[67]
Doctor of Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music (2008)

His high school diploma was finally awarded 25 years after Billy Joel left high school by the school board.

Billy Joel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in 1999. Billy Joel was on the site selection committee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame board. Seven members of the committee voted for San Francisco and seven voted for Cleveland, Ohio, this was a tied vote so Billy Joel was the tie breaking vote, which gave Cleveland the hall in 1986.

Billy Joel was also named MusiCares Person of the Year for 2002,[68] an award given each year at the same time as the Grammy Awards. At the dinner honoring Billy Joel, various artists performed versions of his songs including Nelly Furtado, Stevie Wonder, Jon Bon Jovi, Diana Krall, Rob Thomas and Natalie Cole. Billy Joel was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. In 2005, Billy Joel received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Billy Joel has banners in the rafters of the Times Union Center, Nassau Coliseum, Madison Square Garden, Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT, Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, and Hartford Civic Center in Hartford. (Billy Joel is erroneously cited as the first artist to perform a concert at Yankee Stadium in New York City; The Isley Brothers first performed there in 1969, and the Latin supergroup, The Fania All-Stars played and recorded live albums at the stadium during the 1970s.)

Billy Joel has also sponsored the Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series at Syracuse University.[69]

Billy Joel is the only performing artist to have played both Yankee and Shea Stadiums, as well as Giants Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

On December 12, 2011 Billy Joel became the first non classical musician honored with a portrait in Steinway Hall.[70]

Media performances

The Midnight Special (1975) (Television) (Sang "Travelin' Prayer" and "The Ballad of Billy the Kid")
The Mike Douglas Show (1976) (Television)
Saturday Night Live in 1978, 1981, 1989, 1993
The Old Grey Whistle Test (1978) (London, England) (Television)
Musikladen (1978) (German television concert)
20/20 (1980) (Television)
Multiple appearances on MTV
Today (June 1984) Introduces music video for "The Longest Time."
Late Night with David Letterman in 1986 and 1989, Late Show with David Letterman in 1993 (first musical guest on the show)
Oliver & Company (1988) (Provided both the voice and singing voice for the character Dodger in the Disney full-length animated feature.)
Sesame Street (1988) (Sang "Just the Way You Are" to Oscar the Grouch, and "The Alphabet Song" with the kids)
During the 1994 Grammy Award Show, Billy Joel extended his performance of "The River of Dreams" by stopping the song partway through, looking at the celebrity audience with a grin while pretending to check his watch and saying, "valuable advertising time going by...dollars...dollars...dollars..." which was met with laughter from the audience. Billy Joel then resumed playing the song.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show (1997) (Television)
Behind the Music (1997) (Television)
VH1 Storytellers (1997) and VH1 Video Time Line (1998)
60 Minutes (April 26, 1998) Interviewed by Steve Kroft.
Inside the Actor's Studio (1999) (Bravo Network)
Mad About You: "Murray at the Dog Show" (1999) (NBC Television) (Appeared as himself; wrote the music for the song "Lullabye For You" which was featured in the episode. Paul Reiser wrote the lyrics.)
Piano Grand! A Smithsonian Celebration (2000) (Billy Joel served as host and performer; aired on PBS; released on DVD)
Performed the national anthem at multiple sporting events, and was the first to sing it at two Super Bowls[citation needed]
America: A Tribute To Heroes and The Concert for New York City (2001)
Movin' Out (2002), is a musical based on twenty-four Billy Joel songs which was a smash hit on Broadway from 2002 to 2005 (last Broadway show was on December 11, 2005). Billy Joel was composer, lyricist, and orchestrator and won a Tony Award for Best Orchestrations. The musical is really a dance performance choreographed by famed choreographer Twyla Tharp, with Joel's songs sung by Michael Cavanaugh.
The 2003 Tony Awards (Television) (Performed "New York State of Mind")
The Ellen DeGeneres Show (2005) (Television) (Performed "Miami 2017" and "Only the Good Die Young")
Late Night with Conan O'Brien (2005) (NBC) (Performed "Everybody Loves You Now" and "Vienna")
The Today Show in 2005 and 2006
The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (2006) (CNBC)
American Chopper (2006) ("The Billy Joel Bike") (Television, DVD)
The Oprah Winfrey Show (March 24, 2008) (Appeared with wife, Katie, and performed "Only the Good Die Young")
The South Bank Show (July 13, 2008) (Billy Joel discussed his career)
The Howard Stern Show (November 16, 2010) (Sirius XM) (Interview and musical performance)


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  4. ^ Top Selling Albums
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  39. ^ Press Release (November 30, 2007). Emerging Singer-Songwriter Cass Dillon Premiers New Billy Joel Song, "Christmas in Fallujah", Exclusively on iTunes Beginning Tuesday, December 4". Archived from the original on February 7, 2008.
  40. ^ The Windsor Star, June 20, 2008 edition
  41. ^ Westerly, Mal (2009-05-24). "BILLY JOEL's Former Drummer Files Lawsuit, Liberty DeVitto Says He's Owed $$$". Retrieved 2009-05-24.
  42. ^ "BILLY JOEL and Former Drummer, Liberty Devitto Settle Lawsuit". 2010-04-22. Retrieved 2010-04-25.
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  46. ^ Billy Joel: "There Was Never a Tour Booked This Summer!". Chicago Sun-Times Retrieved on March 10, 2010.
  47. ^ Smith, Timothy K. (September 20, 2004). "The Piano Man Builds His Dream Boat Billy Joel has always loved watercraft. But now he has commissioned—and is helping design—a fantastic commuter yacht straight out of the golden age of powerboats". CNN.
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  49. ^ Karppi, Dagmar Fors (January 21, 2011). "Billy Joel Adds to OB Mix As Chamber Members Chat". Oyster Bay Enterprise Pilot. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
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  53. ^ Channel Five Interview. "[4]".
  54. ^ (December 31, 1985). "Joel and his 'uptown girl' have a girl". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, p. A3. "Model Christie Brinkley has given her husband – singer-songwriter Billy Joel – something new to sing about, a 6½-pound daughter, a spokesman for the family said Monday."
  55. ^ (December 30, 1985). "Brinkley, Joel Parents of 'Uptown Girl'". Los Angeles Times, p. 2. The 6½-pound girl, as yet unnamed, was born in a Manhattan hospital at about 11:45 pm Sunday, said the spokeswoman, Geraldine McInerney."
  56. ^ Stout, Gene (December 3, 1986). "Billy Joel Delivers – Few Surprises". Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
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  61. ^ Billy joel's campaign donations. Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
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  65. ^ The Howard Stern Show (November 16, 2010) (Sirius XM) (Interview and musical performance)
  66. ^ Associated Press. (May 14, 2006). "Joel serenades 5,000 Syracuse graduates". USA Today. Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
  67. ^ (April 17, 2006). "Syracuse University to present five honorary degrees at its 152nd Commencement". Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
  68. ^ Friedman, Roger (February 26, 2002). "Billy Joel Gets Special Award at Grammy Kickoff". Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
  69. ^ (February 14, 2008). "VPA continues Billy Joel Visiting Composer Series with residency by Scottish composer Judith Weir". Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
  70. ^ Billy Joel honored by Steinway Newsday December 12, 2011

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