Billy Joel

Billy Joel

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About Billy Joel

Broad, earnest, and unreservedly sentimental, Billy Joel remains the quintessential showman of pop music. Born in 1949 in New York City and raised on Long Island during the postwar boom era, Joel spent his early career in Los Angeles, working briefly as the singer in a bar on Wilshire Boulevard—an experience commemorated in his signature song, “Piano Man.” He went on to become one of the most successful artists in pop, bridging reflective singer-songwriter material (1982’s The Nylon Curtain) with sock-hop nostalgia like “The Longest Time” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” for a theatrical, particularly American sound whose resonances can be heard not only in piano balladeers but in pop omnivores like Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga. In the ’90s, Joel shifted his energy to touring; he sold out stadiums and arenas around the world well into the 21st century and helmed a 150-show run at New York’s Madison Square Garden until the summer of 2024. Joel has an air of the everyman about him, the megastar somehow intimately in touch with the aspirations and disappointments of ordinary people. Songs like the 1977 mini-epic “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and 1976’s ruminative “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” paired anthemic choruses with a wistfulness about lost pasts; biting tracks like 1978’s socialite satire “Big Shot” and 1971’s scathing “Everybody Loves You Now” put his New York-honed attitude on display; and cuts like the muscular “A Matter of Trust” and the loping “She’s Always a Woman” show off his romantic side. His combination of sincerity and musical chops—leavened by a withering humor—have made his catalog a pop touchstone.

Bronx, NY, United States
May 9, 1949
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