Billy Joel

Billy Joel

Singer and songwriter of the hit Piano Man
A prolific recording superstar whose 1977 smash The Stranger became the biggest-selling album by a solo artist in Columbia Records history, Billy Joel (b. William Martin Joel, May 9, 1949, Hicksville, New York) long ago won the war--now he's just wrapping up the battles. At one point the object of derision by critics who felt his work hacklike and lacking in rock 'n' roll "spirit," Joel received unstinting praise from all quarters for his 1993 album River Of Dreams. And while that might have mattered to the singer, chances are the fact that it was the fastest-selling album in his career--and spent the first three weeks of its chart life sitting comfortably at No. 1--meant a bit more.A journeyman rocker who has led one of the most tumultuous lives in the recording business, Billy Joel first recorded as "Billy Joe Joel" as a member of late-'60s rock group the Hassles, a Long Island combo that claimed the Vagrants, Young Rascals, and Vanilla Fudge as contemporaries. After releasing five singles and two albums between 1967-69, all of which flopped, Joel formed two man "power duo" Attila with his former drummer; their sole album, released on Epic in 1970, similarly stiffed.Billy Joel's solo career officially commenced in 1971, when a deal he struck with industry figure Artie Ripp resulted in the making of Cold Spring Harbor, issued on Ripp's Paramount-distributed Family label. Any way you look at it, though, it was a bad deal for Joel: The album was slightly sped up in the mastering, which made his voice sound like, in his words, "a chipmunk." Additionally, he had signed a heavy-duty contract with Ripp that gave away most of his publishing royalties and ultimately proved to have disastrous consequences. Chagrined, Joel headed to Los Angeles and began playing cocktail piano as "Bill Martin" (a situation that would result in his writing his first hit, 1974's "Piano Man"). When Columbia Records heard that a taped performance of Joel singing his song "Captain Jack" was getting repeat radio airplay on Philadelphia station WMMR, they tracked the singer down and eventually signed him--after concluding a hefty settlement with Family's Ripp, who reportedly was allotted 25% of Joel's future sales royalties.Success came quickly. The autobiographical title track of 1973's Piano Man, the singer's first effort for Columbia, reached No. 25 on Billboard's Hot 100 and soon propelled the album to gold certification; "The Entertainer," from Joel's follow-up Streetlife Serenade, also proved a top 40 hit. But it was with 1977's The Stranger that Billy Joel delivered his sales monster. Spending an astounding 137 weeks on the charts, the seven-times platinum set produced the gold single "Just the Way You Are" and further hits "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "Only The Good Die Young," and "She's Always A Woman." In short, it was the album that has come to define Billy Joel for most people. A sometimes upbeat, sometimes blatantly romantic pop record, it elevated the singer to the position of a top-notch pop craftsman, a songsmith with a great ear for hooks in the tradition of Elton John.Joel's story thereafter is essentially one of non-stop success and broken sales records. His equally strong follow-up 52nd Street stayed at No. 1 for eight weeks, showing The Stranger was by no means a career fluke; its three hits included the gold top 5 hit "My Life" as well as "Big Shot" and "Honesty." Joel recorded an astounding string of 20 top 40 hits during the course of the '80s, nine of which reached the top 10. Most interesting was the variety in the sound of all his singles; as a writer, he deliberately worked in many genres, from the simple pop style of his earlier "Honesty" to rock ("It's Still Rock 'N' Roll To Me") and even early-'60s pop ("Uptown Girl" and "Tell Her About It"). Joel was one of the first major singer-songwriters to take advantage of the burgeoning rock video format, and did so consistently creatively; several of MTV's most-played videos of the '80s were his.Billy Joel has had his share of personal happiness and grief during the course of his career. On a personal level, his marriage to supermodel Christie Brinkley, which at one point looked to be one of the happiest unions within the industry, conspicuously fizzled; Brinkley, who appeared in the singer's "Uptown Girl" video, had painted the cover of his 1993 River Of Dreams set. The couple's daughter Alexa Ray also had an impact on the album: Joel wrote "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" for her. Also well-documented have been the series of business dealings that have devastated Joel financially through the years. In 1989, he fired and filed suit against Frank Weber, his business manager and former brother-in-law, after an independent audit allegedly revealed the theft of millions of dollars. In 1993, he additionally sued the extremely powerful music business attorney Allen Grubman and his New York firm for fraud and breach of contract; the suit, which contained several conflict-of-interest claims that heated the music industry, was eventually settled later in the year. Otherwise, with the instant success of River Of Dreams, things could not be looking brighter for Billy Joel. The man who in 1979 was named Columbia Records' biggest-selling solo artist of the 20th century has approached middle age with dignity and considerable grace. What's next? In late 1993, he told Newsday's Ira Robbins it may be the Great White Way. "I had been approached by other people about doing a Broadway musical," he told Robbins, "but when Pete Townshend told me that, it was the first time I really seriously have considered that I am going to do that. I intend to do it." On the basis of past performance, few others could be as capable.It took Joel three years to come up with Charmed Life, but, in tragic irony, while he was awaiting its release, he got into an accident while riding his Harley in February 1990; he was left with multiple fractures and muscle damage. Joel not only survived the crash, but once recovered, toured in support the pushed-back Charmed Life, which generated the top five hit "Cradle Of Love." (Set to have a prominent role in Oliver Stone's movie The Doors, the accident meant he only could have a cameo--on crutches.) It took another three years for Joel to release his next musical offering, Cyberpunk, a coupling of music with videos, computer graphics and manipulated imagery; while it was supposed to be a tribute to pop music's growing fascination with computers, it comes across as Joel jumping on the latest bandwagon.Nearing the close of the '90s, Joel has yet to follow up with another full-length attempt. After performing the title cut for the Speed soundtrack, Joel once again bowed to the Who (in the late '80s, Joel guest-starred in a stage production of the Who's Tommy) with his role as "Ace Face/The Bellboy" in the '96 tour of Quadrophenia. Word has it the man with the million-dollar snarl is writing new music for a forthcoming album.Source:
Like family, we are tied to each other. This is what all good musicians understand.More Billy Joel quotes [08/08/2011 06:08:19]
I did write a letter to the archdiocese who'd banned the song, Only the Good Die Young, asking them to ban my next record.More Billy Joel quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
We are living in a time when American popular music is finally being recognized as one of our most successful exports. The demand is huge.More Billy Joel quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
You've got your passion. You've got your pride. But don't you know that only fools are satisfied? Dream on, but don't imagine they'll all come true.More Billy Joel quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]
I keep telling people: Don't make me the poster boy for AA because I don't know a lot about sobriety, but I do know a lot about drinking.More Billy Joel quotes [03/29/2018 05:03:36]

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