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Joel, Billy

Billy Joel

Singer, songwriter, pianist

Musical Training Began Early

Soul and Pop Stars Influenced Style

Piano Man Hit Top 40

The Stranger Became a Bestseller

Tragedies Precipitated Soul-Searching

Innocent Man Reflected Romantic life

We Didnt Start the Fire Sparked Sales

River of Dreams Ran Smoothly

Selected discography

Sources

My music is a synthesis of all the music that I like, said Billy Joel on the occasion of the release of his 15th album, River of Dreams, in 1993. I mix all kinds of things: classical, Broadway, rock n roll, blues, jazz, whatevers out there... I live in a stylistic no mans land. Ive always believed that the beauty of American music was its ability to transcend and cross lines. Indeed, with a career spanning more than two decades, Joel has proven his musical range to his loyal audience with a diverse collection of pop and rock hits that have become American standards. Perhaps best known for his soulful ballads, the multiplatinum-selling, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter rose to mega-stardom during the 1970s and 1980s, and continued his successes into the 1990s. His albums have been among those decades biggest sellers: singles like Piano Man, Just the Way You Are, Its Still Rock and Roll to Me, An Innocent Man, and We Didnt Start the Fire have garnered much commercial and critical acclaim.

Joels place in American pop history was assured with the 1993 release of River of Dreams. If Bruce Springsteen is the Jersey shore, wrote Richard Corliss in a review of the disc for Time, Billy is Long Island, where the working class that fled Brooklyn stares stilettos at the moneyed folk who summer in the Hamptons. Although Corliss described Joel as the last, finest heir to the songwriter tradition of soulful 60s pop, the singers ability to adapt to changing musical tastes while simultaneously maintaining his individuality has contributed to his longevity in the fickle music industry.

Musical Training Began Early

William Martin Joel was born in 1949 and grew up in a comfortable Long Island suburb during the years following World War II. His German-born father, Howard Joel, who was imprisoned by the Nazis at Dachau during the war, moved to America after his release, to begin a new life in New York. That new life included adopting a new faith for his sonalthough Joel Sr. was Jewish, young Billy was raised in a predominately Catholic neighborhood and frequently attended mass and confession. One of Joels future hits, Only the Good Die Young, would feature lyrics about a Catholic girls reluctance to engage in premarital sex.

Joels father secured work as an engineer with General Electric while his mother, Rosalind, set to work raising Billy and his sister Judy. Both of Joels parents provided early musical influences: his father was a classically trained, self-disciplined pianist, and his mother had once sung in the chorus for Gilbert and Sullivan. Billy began piano lessons at age four and continued until he

For the Record

Born William Martin Joel, May 9,1949, in Hicksville, Long Island, NY; son of Howard (an engineer and classically trained pianist) and Rosalind (a homemaker; maiden name, Hyman) Joel; married Elizabeth Weber (his business manager), 1973 (divorced, 1982); married Christie Brinkley (a model), 1985 (separated, 1994); children: (second marriage) Alexa Ray.

Performed at Hicksville High School with teenage group the Echos (later known as the Lost Souls) c. 1965; worked as housepainter and oyster harvester, late 1960s-early 1970s; joined rock group the Hassles, Long Island, NY, and recorded two albums for United Artists, 1967-68; formed Attila (organ and drum duo) with Jonathan Small, 1970; under alias Bill Martin, played piano in the Executive Lounge, Los Angeles, 1971; signed with Family Productions, 1971; signed with Columbia, 1972.

Selected awards: Best new male vocalist award, Cash Box, 1974, for Piano Man; record of the year, Stereo Review, 1977, for The Stranger; Grammy awards for best album and best song, both 1978, for The Stranger and Just the Way You Are; ASCAP awards for song of the year and artist of the year, both 1978, for Just the Way You Are, and Shes Always a Woman; Grand Prix award (Japan), and best male vocalist of the year designation, Radio Pop Disc Awards (Japan), both 1978; Number One pop album, pop album artist, male pop album artist, and male pop artist awards, Billboard magazine, all 1979, all for 52nd Street; Grammy Legend Award, 1990; Humanitarian Award, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1990; honorary doctor of humane letters, Fairfield University, 1991; honorary doctor of music, Berklee College of Music, 1993.

Addresses: Home Long Island, NY. Office Columbia Records/Division of Sony Music, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404.

was 14, though he disliked learning classical music, theory, and the endless hours of practice.

In 1957, Joels parents divorced; his father returned to Europe, and his mother supported the family by becoming a secretary and bookkeeper. Joels maternal grandfather, Philip Hyman, became the primary father figure in Joels life. As a teenager, Joel began to explore his masculinity by skipping school, running with a less-than-tough street gang, and engaging in Bantamweight boxing. Though he scored well on tests, his teachers refused to graduate him from high school due to his many absences. It was also during these years that Joel discovered the power of music.

Soul and Pop Stars Influenced Style

In 1962, Joel saw a live performance for the first time when he went with friends to hear James Brown at Harlems Apollo Theater. Other early influences included Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles. Joel was deeply affected by the British invasion, so much so that he modeled his own budding style after the Beatles Paul McCartney. Ironically, Joel also admired the hard-rock, psychedelic sound of Jimi Hendrix.

In 1964, Joel joined his first band, the Echos (later known as the Lost Souls), on the organ and vocals and began composing simplistic songs. His fate as a musician was sealed after the bands first paid gig at a Hicksville church. A short-term recording contract with Mercury Records was offered later, but nothing came of the demo versions of two of Joels songs recorded by the band.

In 1967, Joel and drummer Jonathan Small left the Lost Souls to join the Hassles, another Long Island pop band with more exposure. At age 18, Joels career was officially launched, though just barely. The group recorded two albums for United Artists that elicited a lukewarm reception from fans, 1967s The Hassles and Hour of the Wolf released in 1969. Yearning for something better than the bubble-gum rock produced by the group, Joel and Small left in 1969 to form the duo Attila. They released one incredibly loud self-titled album on the Epic label in 1970 before disbanding.

Discouraged both by the failure of his first attempts as a professional musician and the end of a serious romantic relationship, Joel slid into a depression that included a half-hearted attempt at suicide. A very brief self-imposed stay at a psychiatric hospital convinced him that his problems were minor. As he told Debbie Geller and Tom Hibbert in their 1985 biography, Billy Joel, An Illustrated Biography, I got out and the door closed behind me and I walked down the street and said, Oh, Ill never get that low again. It was one of the best things I ever did, because Ive never gotten to feel sorry for myself, no matter whats happened.... Joels 1985 song, Youre Only Human, would focus on the problem of teen suicide.

Having decided that his future lay in writing songs for others, Joel began composing material for a demo album in 1971. He was soon signed to producer Artie Ripps Family Productions, a Los Angeles label, and Joel moved to California to record his first solo album. Cold Spring Harbor, originally intended simply as a vehicle to showcase his songs, was released in 1972. The album was technically inferior due to problems during the mastering stage of production; Joels voice was speeded up and sounded, in his words, like a chipmunk. His association with Ripp would prove to be financially disastrous for the singer, who unfortunately signed away all publishing rights, copyrights, and royalties to his producer/manager for a period of 15 years. This deal reportedly cost millions to break later in Joels career.

After a six-month tour to promote the ill-fated album, Joel married Elizabeth Weber, ex-wife of fellow Attila member Small. Weber would eventually manage her husbands career and become the model for many of his songs about women.

It was Captain Jack, one of the songs Joel had performed live while on tour to promote Cold Spring Harbor, that indirectly gave him the break he needed. After hearing the song during Joels set at the Mary Sol Rock Festival near San Juan, Puerto Rico, and later on East Coast FM radio stations, Columbia Records executive Clive Davis tracked Joel down, helped extricate him from his contract with Ripp, and signed him to the Columbia label.

Piano Man Hit Top 40

Joels first Top 40 hit single, Piano Man, the title track from his second album released in 1973, was based on his experiences in Wilshire Boulevards Executive Lounge. The album also contained, appropriately, Captain Jack, Joels song about a rich young heroin addict. Because of its mellow, narrative style, Piano Man was immediately compared to Harry Chapins Cats In the Cradle and Don McLeans American Pie. By the end of the year, Joel had been named Cash Boxs best new male vocalist, and the album had been named record of the year by Stereo Review. Piano Man was eventually certified platinum. Indeed, the single would become so synonymous with the singer that Joel would select it as the final song at all of his concerts for the next 20 years.

In an interview for Entertainment Weeklys Linda Sanders, Joel reflected on his music. I was surprised the title song [Piano Man] was a hit. In a way, thats the story of any hit record Ive hadtheyre all bizarre, strange, novelty numbers, and not particularly definitive of my work.... My problem is that people tend to define me in terms of my hits and may not know the substantive elements of my composition.

Joel began recording Streetlife Serenade, his follow-up to Piano Man, in the summer of 1974. With the exception of the single, The Entertainer, the album was not a success. Interesting musical ideas, but nothing to say lyrically, was how Joel explained the albums weaknesses in Entertainment Weekly. I was trying to be Debussy in the title trackit didnt work. After three years on the West Coast and the letdown following dismal sales of his third album, Joel and his wife returned to their roots in New York.

With his creative juices flowing once again, Joel began working on what would be his next album, 1976s Turnstiles. This was the first album Joel produced himself using musicians of his choosing, rather than those hired by Columbia executives. Joel recruited drummer Liberty DeVitto, bass player Doug Stegmey-er, and tenor saxophonist Richie Cannata, three men who would remain with Joels backing band for years. Although Turnstiles, like its predecessor, was not a spectacular seller, the album contained good material, including New York State of Mind, a standard that would later be covered by Barbra Streisand.

The Stranger Became a Bestseller

Although Joel began to feel pressure from Columbia Records to record more than one album a year and to replicate his early success with Piano Man, he refused to produce formulaic music. Fortunately, he struck much-needed gold with his next album, The Stranger, released in 1977. Produced by Phil Ramone, the album was recorded during five weeks of enthusiastic studio sessions full of improvisations by Joel and his band.

In addition to the immense appeal of the title track, The Stranger included four U.S. hit singles: Just the Way You Are, Shes Always a Woman, Movin Out (Anthonys Song), and Only the Good Die Young. Joels international reputation was now firmly established, and his national renown was reinforced as The Stranger won Grammy Awards for record of the year and song of the year. The album went on to become Columbia/CBSs biggest seller prior to the release of Michael Jacksons Thriller, even surpassing Simon & Garfunkels Bridge Over Troubled Water.

With the publicif not the criticslapping up his work, Joel consolidated his reputation with the 1978 release of 52nd Street. The music was very well received, and the first single, My Life, zoomed to Number Three on the Billboard charts. The album became Joels first to reach Number One in the charts and went on to sell millions of copies. Three years later, Glass Houses, Joels second platinum album, heralded a change in the singers image as a pop stylist. With New Wave replacing disco as the musical fad du jour, Joel jumped on the bandwagon and infused the album with more hard-hitting rock songs. His goal, apparently, was to throw figurative stones at his image. The singles You May Be Right, and Its Still Rock and Roll to Me did well with commercial audiences but left the critics cold.

Reviews were relentless, and Joels attempt to be taken seriously as a modern rock performer failed. Although he supposedly scorned the critics, he had a simultaneous need for their approval and was hurt by their dismissal of Glass Houses. I think there was a perception that I was trying to pose as a New Wave guy, and that wasnt in any way my intention, he told Entertainment Weekly. My intention was to write bigger stuff we could play in arenas.

In 1981, Columbia released the platinum-certified Songs in the Attic, a collection of new live recordings of material written in Joels early days. The album included songs from Cold Spring Harbor had never been properly recorded.

Tragedies Precipitated Soul-Searching

Joel had already begun studio work on his next album when he was involved in a motorcycle accident in the spring of 1982. His left wrist was broken and his hand badly damaged. Following surgery, production of the album was temporarily shut down while Joel recovered. An additional obstacle for the singer was the breakdown of his marriage to Weber, an event partially blamed on the stress created by Webers management of her husbands career. By the end of 1982, the couple would divorce. When she left, Joels wife took half of the singers assets with her.

Even without such personal tragedies, creating the music for the album that would follow Glass Houses proved to be difficult, as Joel told Geller and Hibbert in their biography: Youre always in the desert looking for the oasis and all thats out there with you is the pianothis big black beast with 88 teeth ... 50,000 packs of cigarettes later, you start getting it.

Joels soul-searching paid off with the release of The Nylon Curtain in 1982, Joels first combined commercial and artistic success. It contained several sobering message songs about society including Allen-town, the rhythmical tune about the plight of unemployed Pennsylvania steel workers, and Goodnight Saigon, a slow, mournful look at Vietnam and its veterans. Joel called The Nylon Curtain the album of which Im most proud. As he told Entertainment Weekly, the album was not as fun to make as Glass Houses because it was so difficult. It was an ambitious undertakingI wanted to create a masterpiece. I remember listening to Allentown and thinking, This is good, and that I had somehow created the feelings I had when I listened to Beatles albums.

Innocent Man Reflected Romantic life

With Allentown, Joel made his first transition from vinyl to video to promote his music and gained an even larger following. When his next album, An Innocent Man, was released in 1983, the MTV video era was in full swing and the upbeat, platinum-certified An Inno-cent Man featured several studies in romance that lent themselves to an MTV format. Joels girlfriend, supermodel Christie Brinkley, appeared in the hit video Uptown Girl, the perfect counterpart to Joels smalltime tough guy. The couple was married in 1985, and later had a daughter, Alexa Ray.

Joel scored big with the title song from his new album. But An Innocent Man was significant as more that a collection of catchy tunes. The album was Joels tribute to and re-creation of some of the sounds of Americas favorite pop stylists, including Little Anthony and the Imperials and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was also the last album on which Joel would use his tenor falsetto. I knew it was the last time I was going to be able to hit certain notes, he told Entertainment Weekly. I was waving goodbye to the boy voice.

In early 1984, Joels first concert video, Billy Joel: Live From Long Island, was released. The inevitable Greatest Hits Volume I and II followed in 1985, a move by Columbia that Joel viewed as a time-stalling technique. The Bridge, his first studio album in three years, appeared in 1986 but failed to garner the huge reception from critics and fans Joel had hoped for. Not a happy album, he told Entertainment Weekly. I wasnt simpatico with the musicians, some of whom Id been working with a long time. I dont think the material was good; I was pressured by management to put it out too fast. By the end, I sort of gave up caring, which for me was unusual.

In 1987, Joel performed to great acclaim in Leningrad and Moscow in what is now the former Soviet Union. His Leningrad concert was broadcast via some 300 radio outlets. Both concerts were recorded and released later that year as Kohuept, the Russian translation of In Concert.

We Didnt Start the Fire Sparked Sales

Two years later, Joel worked with female musicians for the first time on 1989s Storm Front, his triple-platinum comeback album with a nautical bent. A seasoned sailor, Joel spends much of his free time aboard a 36-foot fishing boat near his home in Easthampton, New York. Storm Fronts cultural critique, We Didnt Start the Fire, quickly became a Number One Billboard hit single along with the album itself. Joel received five Grammy nominations for the album and completed a 15-month world tour to promote it. He was seen by 4.3 million fans during 174 shows in 16 countries, including a performance in Berlin the day after German reunification. He also performed in the United States at Yankee Stadiums first rock concert.

One of the reasons for Joels frequent touring stints has been to earn money lost over the years as a result of mismanagement of his career. Indeed, Joel has endured his share of legal problems dating back to his contract with Artie Ripp in 1971. In one case, Joel fired Frank Weber, his ex-brother-in-law and manager of nine years, and sued him for $90 million in 1989, citing fraud and misappropriation of funds. Although Joel was awarded $3 million, Weber filed for bankruptcy soon after the ruling. Weber countersued Joel for libel, but the case was dismissed.

To add to his legal woes, a $10 million lawsuit was brought against Joel in 1993 by an aspiring songwriter who claimed Joel stole his material and parlayed it into three hit songs. Joels statement on the matter was simple: This is another example of why struggling songwriters cant get anybody, including me, to listen to their songs.

River of Dreams Ran Smoothly

Four years after the Storm Front tour de force, Joel released River of Dreams, an album that again garnered critical praise. With the cover art for the album provided by Brinkley and a song (Lullabye [Goodnight My Angel]) dedicated to their daughter, the album appeared to be a family affair. Fans were eager for a new release from Joel and the album hit the charts at Number One in its first week. It was certified multi-platinum by the spring of 1994. The genesis of River of Dreams began in 1992 while Joel was in Southhampton with producer Danny Kortchmar recording two Elvis Presley songs for the soundtrack of the movie Honeymoon in Vegas. During that time an early version of the album was written and recorded as The Shelter Island Sessions. Joel later re-recorded the songs in Long Island and New York studios.

I always thought it was written in stone that you had your eraand that was it, Joel told Peoples Jim Jerome. Rock is a cannibalizing businessit eats its own. I was hip for about a second in the 70s. But here we are. Im 44. Its 20 years since Piano Man, and I have a No. 1 album. Thats not supposed to happen.

According to Times Richard Corliss, River of Dreams is not just a cohesive concept album but also a bunch of damn fine songs with heart and hook. Including such diverse melodies as No Mans Land, The Great Wall of China, Blonde Over Blue, Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel), Shades of Grey, and Its All About Soul, the album may be Joels most significant artistic achievement yet. It represents a move into a more philosophical form of songwriting and a return to his early classical music influences.

As Corliss stated in his review, To brassily assonant music, [Joel] rages at a social landscape scarred by greed, fame, mongering, obsessive loveall the strategies of self.... On Side 2, the man ponders continuity and eternity.... Joels gem is the sleepytime title tune. Its consonant-poppin lyric charts a land where pop merges with gospel, black embraces white, dread is absolved by beliefin God, in dreams, in the rolling sing-along cadence of a doo-wop bass line. We all end in the ocean/We all start in the streams/Were all carried along/By the river of dreams.

In the fall of 1993, Joel launched what he claimed would be his last marathon world tour to promote the new album. Then, the following spring, he and Brinkley announced their separation. Rumors that the split occurred because of Joels constant absences while on tour surrounded the breakup.

When country artist Garth Brooks made Joels Shameless a Number One hit on the country charts in 1991, it was just one of many illustrations of the musicians incredible versatility as a songwriter. After a career spanning 25 years in the recording business, Joel has expressed an interest in focusing that versatility on writing for Broadway, although he refuses to limit himself to one musical form.

In an interview with Jancee Dunn in Rolling Stone, Joel summarized his long career: People think Im this pop meister who just churns out these hit singles.... But I dont view myself as being frozen in cement. And the songs that are the singles do not necessarily represent the sum and substance of my work. People think that Im Just the Way You Are and Uptown Girl. OK, I did write those songs, but I wrote many, many more.

Selected discography

(With the Hassles) The Hassles, United Artists, 1967.
(With the Hassles) Hour of the Wolf, United Artists, 1969.
(With others) Attila, Epic, 1970.
Cold Spring Harbor (includes Shes Got a Way), Family Productions, 1972.
Piano Man (includes Captain Jack), Columbia, 1973.

Streetlife Serenade, Columbia, 1974.
Turnstiles (includes Angry Young Man and Say Goodbye to Hollywood), Columbia, 1976.
The Stranger, Columbia, 1977.
52nd Street (includes Big Shot, Honesty, and Until the Night), Columbia, 1978.
Glass Houses, Columbia, 1980.
Songs in the Attic, Columbia, 1981.
Nylon Curtain, Columbia, 1982.
An Innocent Man (includes The Longest Time, Tell Her About It, Keeping the Faith, and Leave a Tender Moment Alone) Columbia, 1983.
Greatest Hits, Volume I and II, Columbia, 1985.
The Bridge (includes This Is the Time, A Matter of Trust, and Youre Only Human), Columbia, 1986.
Kohuept (live concert), Columbia, 1987.
Storm Front (includes We Didnt Start the Fire, Thats Not Her Style, I Go to Extremes, Shameless, and The Downeaster Alexa), Columbia, 1989.
River of Dreams, Columbia, 1993.

Sources

Books

Geller, Debbie, and Tom Hibbert, Billy Joel: An Illustrated Biography, McGraw-Hill, 1985.

Hardy, Phil, and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Macmillan, 1988.

McKenzie, Michael, Billy Joel, Ballantine, 1985.

The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, edited by Donald Clark, Viking, 1989.

Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Rock and Soul, revised edition, St. Martins, 1989.

Periodicals

Amusement Business, November 29, 1993.

Billboard, October 7,1989; December 23,1989; November 6, 1993; November 13, 1993.

Entertainment Weekly, September 10, 1993.

High Fidelity, August 1987.

Life, September 1987.

Newsweek, January 29, 1990.

New York Times, October 14, 1992; October 4, 1993.

People, December 13, 1993.

Rolling Stone, November 6, 1986; December 23, 1993. January 6, 1994.

Stereo Review, February, 1990; December 1992.

Time, August 30, 1993.

Variety, July 8, 1987.

Washington Post, October 8, 1978.

Additional information for this profile was provided by Columbia Records publicity materials.

Mary Scott Dye

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Joel, Billy

Billy Joel


Singer, songwriter, pianist


With a career spanning more than three decades, Joel has proven his musical range to his loyal audience with a diverse collection of pop and rock hits that have become American standards. Perhaps best known for his soulful ballads, the multi-platinum-selling, Grammy-winning singer/songwriter rose to megastardom during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and continued his successes well into the next millennium. His albums have been among those decade's biggest sellers: singles like "Piano Man," "Just the Way You Are," "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me," "An Innocent Man," and "We Didn't Start the Fire" have garnered much commercial and critical acclaim.

William Martin Joel was born on May 9, 1949, and grew up in a comfortable Long Island suburb during the years following World War II. His German-born father, Howard Joel, who was imprisoned by the Nazis at Dachau during the war, moved to America after his release, to begin a new life in New York. That new life included adopting a new faith for his son—although Joel Sr. was Jewish, young Billy was raised in a predominately Catholic neighborhood and frequently attended mass and confession. One of Joel's future hits, "Only the Good Die Young," would feature lyrics about a Catholic girl's reluctance to engage in premarital sex.

Musical Training Began Early

Joel's father secured work as an engineer with General Electric while his mother, Rosalind, set to work raising Billy and his sister Judy. Both of Joel's parents provided early musical influences: his father was a classically trained, self-disciplined pianist, and his mother had once sung in the chorus for Gilbert and Sullivan. Billy began piano lessons at age four and continued until he was 14, though he disliked learning classical music, theory, and the endless hours of practice.

In 1957, Joel's parents divorced; his father returned to Europe, and his mother supported the family by becoming a secretary and bookkeeper. Joel's maternal grandfather, Philip Hyman, became the primary father figure in Joel's life. As a teenager, Joel began skipping school, running with a less-than-tough street gang, and engaging in Bantam-weight boxing. Though he scored well on tests, his teachers refused to graduate him from high school due to his many absences. It was also during these years that Joel discovered the power of music.

In 1962, Joel saw a live performance for the first time when he went with friends to hear James Brown at Harlem's Apollo Theater. Other early influences included Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Elvis Presley, and the Beatles. Joel was deeply affected by the British invasion, so much so that he modeled his own budding style after the Beatles' Paul McCartney. Ironically, Joel also admired the hard-rock, psychedelic sound of Jimi Hendrix.

In 1964, Joel joined his first band, the Echos (later known as the Lost Souls), on the organ and vocals and began composing simplistic songs. His fate as a musician was sealed after the band's first paid gig at a Hicksville church. A short-term recording contract with Mercury Records was offered later, but nothing came of the demo versions of two of Joel's songs recorded by the band.

In 1967, Joel and drummer Jonathan Small left the Lost Souls to join the Hassles, another Long Island pop band with more exposure. At age 18, Joel's career was officially launched, though just barely. The group recorded two albums for United Artists that elicited a lukewarm reception from fans, 1967's The Hassles and Hour of the Wolf released in 1969. Yearning for something better than the "bubble-gum" rock produced by the group, Joel and Small left in 1969 to form the duo Attila. They released one "incredibly loud" self-titled album on the Epic label in 1970 before disbanding.

Experienced Setbacks

Discouraged both by the failure of his first attempts as a professional musician and the end of a serious romantic relationship, Joel slid into a depression that included a half-hearted attempt at suicide. A very brief self-imposed stay at a psychiatric hospital convinced him that his problems were minor. As he told Debbie Geller and Tom Hibbert in their 1985 biography, Billy Joel, An Illustrated Biography, "I got out and the door closed behind me and I walked down the street and said, 'Oh, I'll never get that low again.' It was one of the best things I ever did, because I've never gotten to feel sorry for myself, no matter what's happened…." Joel's 1985 song, "You're Only Human," would focus on the problem of teen suicide.

Having decided that his future lay in writing songs for others, Joel began composing material for a demo album in 1971. He was soon signed to producer Artie Ripp's Family Productions, a Los Angeles label, and Joel moved to California to record his first solo album. Cold Spring Harbor, originally intended simply as a vehicle to showcase his songs, was released in 1972. The album was technically inferior due to problems during the mastering stage of production; Joel's voice was speeded up and sounded, in his words, "like a chipmunk." His association with Ripp would prove to be financially disastrous for the singer, who unfortunately signed away all publishing rights, copyrights, and royalties to his producer/manager for a period of 15 years. This deal reportedly cost millions to break later in Joel's career.

For the Record . . .

Born William Martin Joel on May 9, 1949, in Hicksville, Long Island, NY; son of Howard (an engineer and classically trained pianist) and Rosalind (a homemaker) Joel; married Elizabeth Weber (his business manager), 1973 (divorced, 1982); married Christie Brinkley (a model), 1985 (divorced, 1994); married Kate Lee, 2004; children: (second marriage) Alexa Ray.

Performed at Hicksville High School with teenage group the Echos (later known as the Lost Souls) c. 1965; worked as housepainter and oyster harvester, late 1960s-early 1970s; joined rock group the Hassles, Long Island, NY, and recorded two albums for United Artists, 1967-68; formed Attila (organ and drum duo) with Jonathan Small, 1970; signed with Columbia, 1972; teamed with Elton John for tours in 1994, 1995, and 2001; formed the Long Island Boat Company, 1996; presented lecture series at 32 schools, "An Evening of Questions, Answers…and a Little Music," 1996; presented Master Class series, which later aired as an A&E special, "Billy Joel: In His Own Words," 2001; signed a book contract with Scholastic, 2004.

Awards: Cash Box, Best New Male Vocalist, 1974; Stereo Review, Record of the year for The Stranger, 1977; Grammy Awards, Best Album for The Stranger and Best Song for "Just the Way You Are," 1978; ASCAP Awards, Song of the Year and Artist of the Year, 1978; Grand Prix Award (Japan), 1978; Billboard Music Awards, Number One Pop Album, Pop Album Artist, Male Pop Album Artist, and Male Pop Artist, 1979; Grammy Legend Award, 1990; Humanitarian Award, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1990; Century Award, 1994; ASCAP Founder's Award for lifetime achievement, 1997; American Music Awards "Award of Merit", 1999; Smithsonian Institute's James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, 2000; "Johnny Mercer Award," Songwriter's Hall of Fame, 2001; Star placed on Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2004.

Addresses: Record company—Columbia Records/Division of Sony Music, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Website—Billy Joel Official Website: http://www.billyjoel.com.

After a six-month tour to promote the ill-fated album, Joel married Elizabeth Weber, ex-wife of fellow Attila member Small. Weber would eventually manage her husband's career and become the model for many of his songs about women.

It was "Captain Jack," one of the songs Joel had performed live while on tour to promote Cold Spring Harbor, that indirectly gave him the break he needed. After hearing the song during Joel's set at the Mary Sol Rock Festival near San Juan, Puerto Rico, and later on East Coast FM radio stations, Columbia Records executive Clive Davis tracked Joel down, helped extricate him from his contract with Ripp, and signed him to the Columbia label.

"Piano Man" Hit Top 40

Joel's first Top 40 hit single, "Piano Man," the title track from his second album released in 1973, was based on his experiences in Wilshire Boulevard's Executive Lounge. The album also contained, appropriately, "Captain Jack," Joel's song about a rich young heroin addict. Because of its mellow, narrative style, "Piano Man" was immediately compared to Harry Chapin's "Cat's In the Cradle" and Don McLean's "American Pie." By the end of the year, Joel had been named Cash Box's best new male vocalist, and the album had been named record of the year by Stereo Review. "Piano Man" was eventually certified platinum. Indeed, the single would become so synonymous with the singer that Joel would select it as the final song at all of his concerts for the next 30 years.

In an interview for Entertainment Weekly's Linda Sanders, Joel reflected on his music. "I was surprised the title song "Piano Man" was a hit. In a way, that's the story of any hit record I've had—they're all bizarre, strange, novelty numbers, and not particularly definitive of my work…. My problem is that people tend to define me in terms of my hits and may not know the substantive elements of my composition."

Joel began recording Streetlife Serenade, his follow-up to Piano Man, in the summer of 1974. With the exception of the single, "The Entertainer," the album was not a success. "Interesting musical ideas, but nothing to say lyrically," was how Joel explained the album's weaknesses in Entertainment Weekly. "I was trying to be Debussy in the title track—it didn't work." After three years on the West Coast and the letdown following dismal sales of his third album, Joel and his wife returned to their roots in New York.

With his creative juices flowing once again, Joel began working on what would be his next album, 1976's Turnstiles. This was the first album Joel produced himself using musicians of his choosing, rather than those hired by Columbia executives. Joel recruited drummer Liberty DeVitto, bass player Doug Stegmeyer, and tenor saxophonist Richie Cannata, three men who would remain with Joel's backing band for years. Although Turnstiles, like its predecessor, was not a spectacular seller, the album contained good material, including "New York State of Mind," a standard that would later be covered by Barbra Streisand.

The Stranger Became a Best-Seller

Although Joel began to feel pressure from Columbia Records to record more than one album a year and to replicate his early success with "Piano Man," he refused to produce formulaic music. Fortunately, he struck much-needed gold with his next album, The Stranger, released in 1977. Produced by Phil Ramone, the album was recorded during five weeks of enthusiastic studio sessions full of improvisations by Joel and his band.

In addition to the immense appeal of the title track, The Stranger included four hit singles: "Just the Way You Are," "She's Always a Woman," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," and "Only the Good Die Young." Joel's international reputation was now firmly established, and his national renown was reinforced as The Stranger won Grammy Awards for record of the year and song of the year. The album went on to become Columbia/CBS's biggest seller prior to the release of Michael Jackson's Thriller, even surpassing Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water.

With the public—if not the critics—lapping up his work, Joel consolidated his reputation with the 1978 release of 52nd Street. The music was very well received, and the first single, "My Life," zoomed to number three on the Billboard charts. The album became Joel's first to reach number one in the charts and went on to sell millions of copies. Three years later, Glass Houses, Joel's second platinum album, heralded a change in the singer's image as a pop stylist. With New Wave replacing disco as the musical fad du jour, Joel jumped on the bandwagon and infused the album with more hard-hitting rock songs. His goal, apparently, was to throw figurative stones at his image. The singles "You May Be Right," and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" did well with commercial audiences but left the critics cold.

Reviews were relentless, and Joel's attempt to be taken seriously as a modern rock performer failed. Although he supposedly scorned the critics, he had a simultaneous need for their approval and was hurt by their dismissal of Glass Houses. "I think there was a perception that I was trying to pose as a New Wave guy, and that wasn't in any way my intention," he told Entertainment Weekly. "My intention was to write bigger stuff we could play in arenas."

In 1981, Columbia released the platinum-certified Songs in the Attic, a collection of new live recordings of material written in Joel's early days. The album included songs from Cold Spring Harbor that had never been properly recorded.

Joel had already begun studio work on his next album when he was involved in a motorcycle accident in the spring of 1982. His left wrist was broken and his hand badly damaged. Following surgery, production of the album was temporarily shut down while Joel recovered. An additional obstacle for the singer was the breakdown of his marriage to Weber, an event partially blamed on the stress created by Weber's management of her husband's career. By the end of 1982, the couple divorced. When she left, Joel's wife took half of the singer's assets with her.

Joel's soul-searching paid off with the release of The Nylon Curtain in 1982, Joel's first combined commercial and artistic success. It contained several sobering "message" songs about society including "Allentown," the rhythmical tune about the plight of unemployed Pennsylvania steel workers, and "Goodnight Saigon," a slow, mournful look at Vietnam and its veterans. Joel called The Nylon Curtain "the album of which I'm most proud." As he told Entertainment Weekly, the album was not as fun to make as Glass Houses because it was so difficult. "It was an ambitious undertaking—I wanted to create a masterpiece. I remember listening to 'Allentown' and thinking, 'This is good,' and that I had somehow created the feelings I had when I listened to Beatles albums."

Found an "Uptown Girl"

With "Allentown," Joel made his first transition from vinyl to video to promote his music and gained an even larger following. When his next album, An Innocent Man, was released in 1983, the MTV video era was in full swing and the upbeat, platinum-certified An Innocent Man featured several studies in romance that lent themselves to an MTV format. Joel's girlfriend, supermodel Christie Brinkley, appeared in the hit video "Uptown Girl," the perfect counterpart to Joel's small-time tough guy. The couple was married in 1985, and later had a daughter, Alexa Ray.

Joel scored big with the title song from his new album. However, An Innocent Man was significant as more than a collection of catchy tunes. The album was Joel's tribute to and re-creation of some of the sounds of America's favorite pop stylists, including Little Anthony and the Imperials and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was also the last album on which Joel would use his tenor falsetto. "I knew it was the last time I was going to be able to hit certain notes," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I was waving goodbye to the boy voice."

In early 1984, Joel's first concert video, Billy Joel: Live From Long Island, was released. The inevitable Greatest Hits Volume I and II followed in 1985, a move by Columbia that Joel viewed as a time-stalling technique. The Bridge, his first studio album in three years, appeared in 1986 but failed to garner the huge reception from critics and fans Joel had hoped for. "Not a happy album," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I wasn't simpatico with the musicians, some of whom I'd been working with a long time. I don't think the material was good; I was pressured by management to put it out too fast. By the end, I sort of gave up caring, which for me was unusual."

In 1987, Joel performed to great acclaim in Leningrad and Moscow in what is now the former Soviet Union. His Leningrad concert was broadcast via some 300 radio outlets. Both concerts were recorded and released later that year as Kohuept, the Russian translation of "In Concert."

Two years later, Joel worked with female musicians for the first time on 1989's Storm Front, his triple-platinum comeback album with a nautical bent. A seasoned sailor, Joel spends much of his free time aboard a 36-foot fishing boat near his home in Easthampton, New York. Storm Front's cultural critique, "We Didn't Start the Fire," quickly became a Number One Billboard hit single along with the album itself. Joel received five Grammy nominations for the album and completed a 15-month world tour to promote it. 4.3 million fans saw him during 174 shows in 16 countries, including a performance in Berlin the day after German reunification. He also performed in the United States at Yankee Stadium's first rock concert.

River of Dreams Ran Smoothly

Four years after the Storm Front tour de force, Joel released River of Dreams, an album that again garnered critical praise. With the cover art for the album provided by Brinkley and a song ("Lullabye [Goodnight My Angel]") dedicated to their daughter, the album appeared to be a family affair. Fans were eager for a new release from Joel and the album hit the charts at Number One in its first week. It was certified multi-platinum by the spring of 1994. The genesis of River of Dreams began in 1992 while Joel was in Southampton with producer Danny Kortchmar where he recorded two Elvis Presley songs for the soundtrack of the movie Honeymoon in Vegas. During that time an early version of the album was written and recorded as "The Shelter Island Sessions." Joel later re-recorded the songs in Long Island and New York studios.

According to Time's Richard Corliss, River of Dreams is "not just a cohesive concept album but also a bunch of damn fine songs with heart and hook." Including such diverse melodies as "No Man's Land," "The Great Wall of China," "Blonde Over Blue," "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)," "Shades of Grey," and "It's All About Soul," the album may be Joel's most significant artistic achievement yet. It represents a move into a more philosophical form of songwriting and a return to his early classical music influences.

In the fall of 1993, Joel launched what he claimed would be his last marathon world tour to promote the new album. Then, the following spring, he and Brinkley announced their separation. Rumors that the split occurred because of Joel's constant absences while on tour surrounded the breakup.

1994 started out with a bang as Joel was nominated for four Grammy Awards, all for River of Dreams, including Record of the Year, Pop Male Vocal of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year. Another big event in that year was the Face to Face Tour which teamed Joel with another top piano man, Elton John. Their tour was the hot ticket to have in 1994. However, there was also sadness for Joel, as he and Brinkley divorced in August.

Joel was performing a concert in Osaka, Japan in 1995 when the Kobe earthquake hit, registering 7.2 on the Richter scale. The earthquake killed over 6,000 people. Joel donated the proceeds from his concert to earthquake relief. He also toured again that year with Elton John.

Joel presented a lecture series at 32 schools in 1996, titled "An Evening of Questions, Answers…and a little Music." With the proceeds of these lectures, he established the Rosalind Joel Scholarship for the Performing Arts at City College in New York City, honoring his mother. He also honored another love of his life, boats, by joining forces with Peter Needham to found the Long Island Boat Company.

Achievements Merited Great Awards

In 1997, Joel released Billy Joel: Greatest Hits VolumeIII. He also won the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Founder's Award for lifetime achievement. In 1999, he received the American Music Awards "Award of Merit." He also was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Joel rang in the year 2000 by paling to a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The performance was recorded for his 17th album, Billy Joel: 2000 Years – The Millenium Concert. In March of 2000, he received the Smithsonian Institute's James Smithson Bicentennial Medal. In May, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music for Southampton College.

In 2001, Joel performed a 25 city tour with Elton John, and was honored by the Songwriter's Hall of Fame with the "Johnny Mercer" Award." He released two albums, Fantasies and Delusions, and a compilation album, The Essential Billy Joel. In the fall, he gave a series of Master Classes. One of the classes was recorded in Philadelphia, and was aired as an A&E Special, "Billy Joel: In His Own Words." Following the tragedies of 9/11 in the United States, Joel performed in many conferences to raise money for the September 11th relief fund, including participating in America: A Tribute to Heroes special that aired on 31 networks on September 21, 2001. 2004 brought great changes for Joel. He signed a book contract with Scholastic to release two children's books. The first, Goodnight My Angel: A Lullabye, was released, with the second book, based on his song "New York State of Mind" was scheduled for release in the fall of 2005. Hollywood also recognized Joel, by placing a star for him on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard. In October, he married for a third time to twenty-three-year-old Kate Lee, a restaurant correspondent for PBS.

Selected discography

(With the Hassles) The Hassles, United Artists, 1967.

(With the Hassles) Hour of the Wolf,United Artists, 1969.

(With others) Attila, Epic, 1970.

Cold Spring Harbor, Family Productions, 1972.

Piano Man, Columbia, 1973.

Streetlife Serenade, Columbia, 1974.

Turnstiles, Columbia, 1976.

The Stranger, Columbia, 1977.

52nd Street, Columbia, 1978.

Glass Houses, Columbia, 1980.

Songs in the Attic, Columbia, 1981.

Nylon Curtain, Columbia, 1982.

An Innocent Man, Columbia, 1983.

Greatest Hits, Volume I and II, Columbia, 1985.

The Bridge, Columbia, 1986.

Kohuept (live), Columbia, 1987.

Storm Front, Columbia, 1989.

River of Dreams, Columbia, 1993.

Billy Joel: Greatest Hits Volume III, Sony, 1997.

Billy Joel: 2000 Years – The Millenium Concert, Sony, 2000.

The Essential Billy Joel, Sony, 2001.

Fantasies and Delusions, Sony, 2001.

Movin' Out, Sony, 2002.

Goodnight My Angel, A Lullabye, Scholastic, 2004.

Sources

Books

Geller, Debbie, and Tom Hibbert, Billy Joel: An IllustratedBiography, McGraw-Hill, 1985.

Hardy, Phil, and Dave Laing, Encyclopedia of Rock, Macmillan, 1988.

McKenzie, Michael, Billy Joel, Ballantine, 1985.

Stambler, Irwin, The Encyclopedia of Rock and Soul, revised edition, St. Martin's, 1989.

Periodicals

Amusement Business, November 29, 1993.

Billboard, October 7, 1989; December 23, 1989; November 6, 1993; November 13, 1993.

Entertainment Weekly, September 10, 1993.

High Fidelity, August 1987.

Life, September 1987.

Newsweek, January 29, 1990.

New York Times, October 14, 1992; October 4, 1993.

People, December 13, 1993; October 18, 2004.

Rolling Stone, November 6, 1986; December 23, 1993-January 6, 1994.

Stereo Review, February, 1990; December 1992.

Time, August 30, 1993.

Variety, July 8, 1987; June 16, 2003.

Washington Post, October 8, 1978.

Online

Billy Joel Official Website, http://www.billyjoel.com (November 4, 2004).

—Mary Scott Dye and Sarah Parkin

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Joel, Billy

BILLY JOEL

Born: William Martin Joel; Bronx, New York, 9 May 1949

Genre: Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: River of Dreams (1993)

Hit songs since 1990: "River of Dreams"


Singer/songwriter Billy Joel grabbed America's attention in 1973 and never let it go. His songs, as sung in his expressive tenor, combine a pop music touch with a rock and roll energy and offer compelling lyrics that seem always in step with the common people. When the new millennium began, Joel had sold over 100 million records. Remarkably, he remains an artist unim-pressed with the past and in perpetual forward motion to learn and achieve new things, musical and otherwise.


The Making of a Piano Man

Billy Joel was born the only son of Howard Joel, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp Dachau who immigrated to the United States and found work as an electrical engineer for General Electric. When Joel was a toddler, his father moved the family to Levittown, Long Island. His parents divorced when he was seven and his mother, Rosalind, and older sister, Judy, raised Joel. Although money was never plentiful, Joel's mother insisted that he take piano lessons and he showed promise immediately. In this way, Joel received a strong classical music foundation that would serve him well later. However, like many boys his age, he disliked practicing. When asked to perform classical pieces that he was to have learned, Joel was skilled enough as a preteen to improvise on the spot, sometimes fooling his teacher and musically educated mother that he was playing Mozart, Beethoven, or Chopin.

Around this time, he also became enthralled with rock and R&B music. Among his early influences were Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. His mother could not afford a television so Joel became an avid reader, a trait he carried into adulthood. The works of Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, and many others fascinated him and this literate underpinning formed the basis of Joel's ability to create song lyrics. While attending high school, Joel played keyboards in a band called the Echoes, which later changed their name to the Lost Souls. They played church and school dances and Joel was beginning to garner quite a bit of attention locally for his playing and songwriting talent. Ironically, despite his passion and knowledge for music and literature, Joel was not allowed to graduate. He had missed too many classes. At that point, in 1967, he decided to pursue music professionally.

After a variety of musical pursuits including screeching hard rock, Joel signed with a Long Islandbased record company, Family Records, and recorded his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor (1972). Now a valuable collector's item, this disastrously produced record features Joel singing his well-crafted songs in a speeding high vocal register because of a recording studio blunder. Additionally, Joel had signed over his music rights to the struggling record company. In order to escape the legal and financial entanglements created by this mistake, he disappeared to the West Coast and began making a living in Los Angeles piano bars, playing under the pseudonym Bill Martin. Despite efforts to remain incognito, Columbia Records discovered Joel after hearing a bootlegged version of the song "Captain Jack" over the radio. The songa sweeping ballad about teenage lethargy spinning into drug abuse with the song's antagonist a drug dealer named Captain Jack ("Captain Jack can get you high tonight . . .")was recorded from a live performance Joel had given for a Philadelphia radio station. Columbia Records signed him, freed him from his financial snares with Family Records, and released the album Piano Man (1973). It went gold and the title song became an instant hit. Chronicling his nights in Los Angeles piano bars, "Piano Man" contains lyrics such as, "they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar, and say, 'man what are you doing here?'" The song became a signature song of sorts for Joel, although he rejected the Piano Man image as too restricting.

Suddenly thrust in the forefront of American contemporary music, Joel released fourteen albums over the next sixteen years in an impressive and diverse catalog of music that includes everything from pop ballads such as "New York State of Mind," "Honesty," and "Just the Way You Are" to story songs such as "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant." Joel's fascination with 1950s be-bop is heard in "The Longest Time" and "Keeping the Faith," among others. He flirts with the dum-de-dum of new wave rock in "It's Just a Fantasy" and "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." He rocks hard with "Big Shot," a song describing a disastrous date with a high-profile New York socialite, "you had the Dom Perignon in your hand, and a spoon up your nose." Yet Joel's songs about common people most endear him to his vast audience. He wrote "Allentown" after playing a concert in the Pennsylvania town and becoming impressed with the work ethic of a town so completely dependent on the steel industry. Another such effort is "The Downeaster Alexa, " a tribute to the remaining survivors of the dwindling Long Island fishermen's trade. Joel's passion for the Atlantic Ocean is renowned.


Reflecting on an Ocean of Hits

After Storm Front (1989), Joel waited four years before releasing River of Dreams (1993). The album received four Grammy Award nominations in 1994 including nominee for Best Song with the title track "River of Dreams," another foray into be-bop shuffle. Joel has earned twenty-three Grammy Award nominations and five Grammy Awards in his career. August of 1994 also marked a change in Joel's personal life as his high-profile marriage to super-model Christie Brinkley ended in divorce. They have one daughter, Alexa. The song, "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" from River of Dreams, is a softly sung, poetic response to his daughter's inquiries regarding the uncertainty of life. The same summer Joel began a wildly successful stadium tour with fellow superstar Elton John. The two piano-playing singer/songwriters would often start the show by playing together on each other's songs, then take turns on the stage solo and finish the concert by once again combining talents and dueling on each other's material. They have toured together many times since, including in 2002.

With a volume of musical work to his credit, Joel began taking time in the 1990s to reflect on neglected passions and give something back to those he could help. In 1996 he donated his time to lecture and teach master's classes at various universities. This was part of an ongoing effort by Joel to teach music education to young musicians around the world. He also followed his lifelong love for the ocean by designing a boat, the 38-foot Shelter Island Runabout, and forming a company to produce them called the Long Island Boat Company. Musically, Joel was working on a collection of classical pieces. In the meantime, he rounded out a trilogy of greatest hits collections with the seventeen-song, Greatest Hits, Vol. III (1997).

Joel brought in the new millennium by performing a landmark concert at New York's Madison Square Garden, released on May 2, 2000, as a live album called 2000 YearsThe Millennium Concert (2000). The previous year, Joel gained induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He had entered the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the organization presented him with its highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award, in 2001. Joel has received many awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) and he holds four honorary doctorates in music.

When the United States was reeling from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Joel was in the forefront of those in the music industry who raised money and spirits by performing music. He played a poignant "New York State of Mind" on the TV special America: A Tribute to Heroes, which aired ten days after the attacks and featured the country's biggest entertainment industry names in an effort to raise money for the victims' families. He also received wild applause from an audience of New York City firefighters and police officers during the Concert for New York City held on October 20, 2001; the money raised went to the September 11 Relief Fund.

Spot Light: Movin' Out

Movin' Out, which opened on Broadway at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York City in 2002, features preexisting Billy Joel music put to dance by the legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp. Tharp conceived the show, which borrows characters from well-known Joel songs such as Brenda and Eddie from "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant" and Tony from "Movin' Out." The show's narrative is communicated solely through dance and features an exquisite cast of ballet and modern concert dancers in addition to some of Broadway's finest as Tharp's mutinously lyrical choreography takes them through twenty-seven popular Joel songs. Singer/pianist Matt Cavanaugh sings them and members of Joel's touring band are part of the live band that accompanies the dancers on stage. The story concerns a twenty-year arc in the lives of the play's characters, following them from high school, through the Vietnam War, the war's aftermath, and their recovery from the loss of innocence.

That autumn Joel released his first classical album, the long-awaited Fantasies and Delusions (2001). For followers of Joel's music this came as no surprise as he had been offering snippets of classical work throughout his previous releases. Pianist Richard Joo performs the twelve compositions and the album held the number one spot on the classical charts for many weeks. At nearly the same time, Joel released a thirty-six-song collection titled The Essential Billy Joel (2001).

Another project brewing inside of Joel was a Broadway show. This dream was realized when Movin' Out opened at the Richard Rogers Theater in New York City in 2002. Directed and choreographed by Twyla Tharp, Movin' Out received spectacular reviews and was a hit of the 2002 Broadway season. It earned Joel a 2003 Tony Award for Best Orchestrations, which he shared with Stuart Malina.

With talents that divert in many successful directions, it will be interesting to see where Joel's path takes him next. He has traveled a long distance from his humble beginnings, although his strong connections to those days certainly shape the foundation for what inspires and drives him.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Cold Spring Harbor (Family, 1972); Piano Man (Columbia, 1973); Streetlife Serenade (Columbia, 1974); Turnstiles (Columbia, 1976); The Stranger (CBS, 1977); 52nd Street (CBS, 1978); Glass Houses (Columbia, 1980); Songs in the Attic (Columbia, 1981); The Nylon Curtain (CBS, 1982); An Innocent Man (CBS, 1983); Greatest Hits, Vols. I & II (Columbia, 1985); The Bridge (Columbia, 1986); Kohuept in Concert (Columbia, 1987); Storm Front (Columbia, 1989); Live at Yankee Stadium (Columbia, 1990); River of Dreams (Columbia, 1993); Greatest Hits, Vol. III (Columbia, 1997); 2000 YearsThe Millennium Concert (Columbia, 2000); The Essential Billy Joel (Columbia, 2001); Fantasies and Delusions (Columbia, 2001), Movin Out: Original Broadway Cast Recording (Columbia, 2002).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

J. Tamarkin, Billy Joel: From Hicksville to Hitsville (Port Chester, NY, 1985); D. Geller and T. Hibbert, Billy Joel: An Illustrated Biography (New York, 1985); M. McKenzie, Billy Joel (New York, 1985).

donald lowe

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Lowe, Donald. "Joel, Billy." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Lowe, Donald. "Joel, Billy." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Encyclopedia.com. (August 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3428400267.html

Lowe, Donald. "Joel, Billy." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. 2004. Retrieved August 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3428400267.html

Joel, Billy

Billy Joel

Singer, songwriter, pianist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Billy Joel has had a huge impact on the popular music genre during the 1970s and 1980s. Beginning with his 1973 hit Piano Man, and continuing through smash successes like 1977s Just the Way You Are, 1978s Big Shot, 1980s Its Still Rock and Roll to Me, and 1986s This Is the Time, the singer-songwriter has consistently met the changing demands of the pop audience. Joel seems equally comfortable with ballads or hard-driving rockers, broadening his appeal still further. Over his prolific career, his talents in composition, singing, and playing the piano have garnered him several platinum albums and other honors, including two Grammy awards in 1978.

Joel, born William Martin Joel in the Bronx, New York, on May 9, 1949, began to display his musical talents early, banging on the family piano at the age of two. By the time he was four his mother noticed that he enjoyed listening to Mozart, and decided to get him piano lessons. Though Joels lessons lasted twelve years, he found time as a teenager for other pursuitshe was a member of a street gang and participated in bantamweight boxing. He told Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone that he attributes the attraction of these rougher activities to his fathers leaving the family when he was seven: I missed having a father very much. I went out and did crazy things to discover what my masculinity was. Stupid stuff.

Though Joels early musical training was classical, as a teenager his taste changed under the influence of rock. He liked the Motown sound, and accorded psychedelic rocker Jimi Hendrix genius status, but he was particularly entranced by the Beatles. Though DeCurtis noted similarities in style between Joels Nylon Curtain album and the materials of ex-Beatle John Lennon, Joel claims that he modeled himself most as a singer-songwriter after ex-Beatle Paul McCartney. In 1968 Joel began playing with a local Long Island band called the Hassles; they played in bars and clubs, their performances primarily composed of renditions of Beatles and Rolling Stones hits. The Hassles did, however, record two albums, but their success was too moderate to prevent Joel from supplementing his income by harvesting oysters, painting houses, and writing occasional rock criticism for Changes magazine. Around 1970 the Hassles broke up, and Joel founded a duo called Attila with the groups drummer, Jon Small. Attila made an album, too, but fame remained elusive.

Finally, in 1972 Joel released his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor. He was under contract with Family Productions, and apparently the recording was shoddi-ly handled. Due to a mix-up in Cold Springs mastering stage, the speed was accidentally bumped from 331/3 rpm to 33 2/3, making Joels singing voice come out too

For the Record

Full name, William Martin Joel; born May 9, 1949, in the Bronx, New York; son of Howard (an engineer) and Rosalind (a secretary; maiden name, Nyman) Joel; married Elizabeth (divorced c. 1983); married Christie Brinkley (a model); children: (second marriage) Alexa Ray.

Singer, songwriter; performed with the Hassles, 1968-79; performed with and founded group Attila, 1970; played piano in lounges in Los Angeles, Calif., under pseudonym Bill Martin; solo concert performer and recording artist, 1972. Wrote rock criticism for Changes, painted houses, and harvested oysters, late 1960s-early 1970s.

Awards: Winner of several platinum albums; two Grammy Awards for Just the Way You Are, (one for best record; the other for best song), both 1978; named Best New Male Vocalist by Cashbox magazine, 1974.

Addresses: Home 375 N. Broadway, Jericho, N.Y. 11753. Office Columbia Records, 51 W. 52nd St., New York, N.Y. 10019.

high. While trying to extricate himself from his agreement with Family, Joel left for the West Coast to spend time in Los Angeles, playing piano in a cocktail lounge under the alias Bill Martin. Meanwhile, a song from one of Joels live performances to promote Cold Spring had been recorded and was being played on FM radio stations. Clive Davis of Columbia Records saw potential in the song, Captain Jack, about a heroin addict in the suburbs, managed to find Joel, helped him out of his ties to Family, and signed him to a recording contract.

Thus the way was paved for the release of Joels first successful album, 1973s Piano Man. The popular title track was a somewhat autobiographical rendition of his experiences as a lounge player; the disc also included Captain Jack and other narrative songs like The Ballad of Billy the Kid. Because of the strong story content of Piano Man, Joel was perceived by many as an artist in the tradition of narrative singer-songwriter Harry Chapin. This perception was reinforced by Joels next album, Streetlife Serenade. Some critics liked Streetlife, such as Steven Gaynes in the New York Sunday News, who affirmed that it actually meets the standards set by its predecessor, being heavily stocked with those stinging lyrics Joel is so brilliant at. But the album was not as well-liked as Piano Man with the record-buying public. Neither was Joels next album, Turnstiles, though it included a song likely to become a Manhattan standard, New York State of Mind.

Apparently, hiring Phil Ramone as his producer provided the magic to revitalize Joels career. The first of Joels albums that Ramone worked on was The Stranger, which spawned four hit singles: Just the Way You Are and Shes Always a Woman, romantic love ballads, the energetic Movin Out, and the controversial Only the Good Die Young. The latter drew flak from Roman Catholics because it portrayed a teenage boy criticizing his Catholic girlfriends religion in order to persuade her to have sex with him. Joel claims that he did not intend to be anti-Catholic; he told Eve Zibart in the Washington Post: The point is lust. When youre young and sexually crazed, youll tell anybody anything. Dont listen to your parents, dont listen to your religious upbringing. . .

Most of Joels albums after The Stranger produced hits as well. Notable among them are the new-wave influenced Its Still Rock and Roll to Me, from Glass Houses; Allentown, a song about the difficulties of the working-class unemployed from The Nylon Curtain that brought him Allentown, Pennsylvanias key to the city; and Uptown Girl, concerning a love relationship that crosses class boundaries, from An Innocent Man an album which, according to DeCurtis, seems like a valentine to model Christie Brinkley, the woman Joel married after he divorced his first wife, Elizabeth. Joel explained to DeCurtis that his first marriage was troubled by the fact that Elizabeth served as his manager: She was more focused on my career than I was. It was fruitful and successful in terms of what the music business is supposed to be, but it was ultimately damaging in terms of a relationship.

Since his remarriage to Brinkley, and the birth of their daughter, Alexa Ray, Joel has slowed his career pace somewhat. He plans to cut down on his concert tours, and eventually to retire from the performance aspects of music in favor of more songwriting and production. As he told DeCurtis, its sort of like being an athlete. Eventually, you have to become a coach. Its just a natural extension.

Selected discography

(With the Hassles) The Hassles, United Artists, 1968.

(With the Hassles) Hour of the Wolf, United Artists, 1969.

(With Attila) Attila, Epic, 1970.

Cold Spring Harbor, Family Productions, 1972.

Piano Man (includes Piano Man, Captain Jack, The Ballad of Billy the Kid, and Travelin Prayer), Columbia, 1973.

Streetlife Serenade (includes The Entertainer), Columbia, 1974.

Turnstiles (includes Summer, Highland Falls, Say Goodbye to San Francisco, and New York State of Mind), Columbia, 1976.

The Stranger (includes Just the Way You Are, Movin Out, Shes Always a Woman to Me, and Only the Good Die Young), Columbia, 1977.

52nd Street (includes Big Shot, Half a Mile Away, My Life, Honesty, Until the Night, Stiletto, Zanzibar, and Rosalindas Eyes), Columbia, 1978.

Glass Houses (includes Its Still Rock and Roll to Me, You May Be Right, and Dont Ask Me Why), Columbia, 1980.

Songs in the Attic, Columbia, 1981.

Nylon Curtain (includes Allentown, Pressure, and Goodnight, Saigon), Columbia, 1982.

An Innocent Man (includes An Innocent Man, Uptown Girl, and Keepin the Faith), Columbia, 1983.

The Bridge (includes This Is the Time and Youre Only Human), Columbia, c. 1986.

Sources

Books

McKenzie, Michael, Billy Joel, Ballantine, 1985.

Periodicals

New York Sunday News, September 29, 1974.

People, January 10, 1983.

Rolling Stone, November 6, 1986.

Washington Post, October 8, 1978.

Elizabeth Thomas

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Thomas, Elizabeth. "Joel, Billy." Contemporary Musicians. 1990. Encyclopedia.com. 27 Aug. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Thomas, Elizabeth. "Joel, Billy." Contemporary Musicians. 1990. Encyclopedia.com. (August 27, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3492000044.html

Thomas, Elizabeth. "Joel, Billy." Contemporary Musicians. 1990. Retrieved August 27, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3492000044.html

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