Members: Billy Joel
William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949, in Bronx, New York) is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist.
Joel recorded many popular hits from 1973 (beginning with the single \"Piano Man\") to his retirement from recording pop music in 1993. He is one of the very few rock or even pop artists to have Top Ten hits in the \'70s, \'80s, and \'90s. A six-time Grammy Award winner, he has sold in excess of 100 million records worldwide and is the sixth best selling artist in the United States, according to the RIAA. Joel\'s induction into the Songwriter\'s Hall of Fame (Class of 1992), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Class of 1999) has further solidified his status as one of America\'s leading music icons. He has continued to tour occasionally (sometimes with Elton John) in addition to writing and recording classical music.
He will be inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (www.limusichalloffame.org)on Oct 15, 2006.
Joel first lived in the modern-day South Bronx, in New York City, but his family soon moved to Hicksville, Long Island, which was a section of Levittown, New York in the 1950s and 60s. His father, Howard Joel, was a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Germany, whose father Karl Amson Joel owned the fourth largest mail order company in Germany before being dispossessed by the Nazis . His mother, Rosalind Nyman, was born in England, to an agnostic Jewish family. His parents later divorced, and his father moved back to Eastern Europe. His half-brother Alexander Joel is an acclaimed classical pianist and conductor in Europe now living in New York.
From an early age Joel had an intense interest in music; especially classical music. He began piano lessons at an early age, and his interest in music instead of sports was the source for much teasing and bullying in his early years. As a teenager, Joel took up boxing so that he would be able to defend himself. He boxed successfully on the amateur Golden Gloves circuit for a short time, but he abandoned the sport shortly after having his nose broken in a boxing match.
Joel attended Hicksville High School and was to have graduated in 1967. However, he was one English credit short to meet the graduation requirement; he overslept on the day of an important exam due to his late-night musician\'s lifestyle. Faced with a summer in school to complete this requirement, he decided not to continue. He left high school without a diploma to begin a career in music. In 1992, the English credit requirement was waived by the Hicksville School Board and he received his diploma at Hicksville High\'s graduation ceremony 25 years after he left the school.
At the age of fourteen Joel joined his first band, The Echoes (which later would become The Lost Souls). In the late 60s, he performed with The Hassles, a Long Island band that had some local success (\"Every Step I Take,\" \"You Got Me Hummin\'\") and would release two albums with the group. He then formed the pop rock duo Attila with Hassles drummer Jon Small. Attila released an album which bombed, and disbanded.
Upon losing his record contract with Attila, Joel suffered severe depression, and he was admitted into Meadowbrook Hospital after ingesting furniture polish in a half-hearted suicide attempt. The note he left eventually became the lyrics to his song \"Tomorrow Is Today.\"
COLD SPRING HARBOUR (1971)
Joel signed his first solo record contract with Artie Ripp of 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, the album was mastered at the wrong speed, and the album was initially released with this error, resulting in Joel sounding a half step too high (Joel later commented that he sounded like Alvin and the Chipmunks). Combined with the onerous terms of the Family Productions contract that guaranteed him very little money from the sales of his albums. Joel fled to Los Angeles, California with Elizabeth Weber and married her in Los Angeles in May, 1971. The following year, he played in the Executive Lounge piano bar under the name Bill Martin for six months. This experience is what gave him the material for \"Piano Man.\" In addition, a Philadelphia radio station, WMMR-FM, started playing a tape of a new song, \"Captain Jack\", which was taken from a live concert broadcast which became an underground hit on the East Coast. Hits such as \"She\'s Got a Way\" and \"Everybody Loves You Now\" were originally released on this album, though they did not gain much attention until being released as live performances in 1981 on Songs in the Attic. Since then they have become regular concert numbers. Cold Spring Harbor got a second chance on the charts in 1983 when Columbia reissued the album, and slowed it down to the correct speed. The album reached #158 in the US and #95 in the UK nearly a year later.
PIANO MAN (1973)
His experiences in Los Angeles connected him with executives from Columbia Records, who bought out his contract with Ripp, with the condition that the \"Family Productions\" logo be displayed alongside the Columbia logo for the next five albums. Also in the contract was the agreement that Family Productions would receive a 25 cent royalty for every album Joel sold, which would come back to haunt him when he hit it big. His brief tenure in Los Angeles also inspired his signature song \"Piano Man.\" The album Piano Man was released in late 1973 and was certified Gold. To this day it has sold over four million copies. However, due to the large sums of money involved in the legal tangles of the contract buyout, Joel netted less than $7,000 in profit from his certified Gold record. Although this album is best known for its title track, several other future gems include \"Captain Jack,\" \"The Ballad of Billy the Kid,\" and \"You\'re My Home\" (the b-side of the \"Piano Man\" single, which would later be covered by Helen Reddy), all of which would become staples of Joel\'s live shows.
STREETLIFE SERENADE (1974)
Joel remained in Los Angeles to write Streetlife Serenade, his second album under the Columbia label. References to both suburbia and the inner city pepper the album. The standout track on the album is \"The Entertainer,\" which picks up thematically where \"Piano Man\" left off. Joel was upset that \"Piano Man\" had been significantly edited down in order to make it more radio-friendly, and in \"The Entertainer,\" he 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.\" This refers to the album version of this song which is 5:37 and the edited single which is 3:05. Although Streetlife Serenade is considered one of Joel\'s weaker albums (Joel has confirmed his distate for the album), it still contains some notable tracks including the title track, with its Debussy-like intro, \"Los Angelenos,\" and the underrated instrumental \"The Mexican Connection.\"
Disenchanted with the LA music scene, Joel decided to return to his home state of New York in 1975. There he would record what many fans and critics consider one of his best albums, Turnstiles. On Turnstiles, Joel used his own hand-picked musicians in the studio for the first time, and he took a more hands-on role. Songs were initially recorded and produced by famed Chicago producer James William Guercio, who subsequently was fired. The songs were re-recorded and Joel took over, producing the album himself. Joel\'s \"Say Goodbye to Hollywood\" was a minor hit and echoed the Phil Spector sound and was even covered by Ronnie Spector. The album also featured the New York anthem, \"New York State of Mind\" a bluesy, jazzy epic that has become one of Joel\'s signature songs and would later be covered by fellow Columbia labelmate Barbra Streisand on her Streisand Superman album. Other top songs on the album include \"Summer, Highland Falls,\" and \"Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway).\" Songs such as \"Prelude/Angry Young Man\" would become a mainstay of his concerts for years.
BECOMING A SUPER STAR 1977 - 1981
THE STRANGER (1977)
For his album The Stranger, Columbia Records united Joel with producer Phil Ramone. The album yielded four Top 40 hits on the Billboard Charts in the US. Album sales exceeded Columbia\'s previous top album, Simon & Garfunkel\'s Bridge Over Troubled Water and was certified multi-platinum. It was Joel\'s first Top Ten album as it rose to #2 on the charts. Phil Ramone eventually produced every Billy Joel studio release until 1989\'s Storm Front.
The Stranger netted Joel Grammy nominations, for Album of the Year and Song of the Year, for \"Just the Way You Are\", which was written as a gift to his wife Elizabeth and became his highest charting song to date in the United States. \"Just The Way You Are\" won a Grammy for Song of the Year and The Stranger won for Record of the Year.
52ND STREET (1978)
Joel faced high expectations on his next album. 52nd Street was conceived as a day in Manhattan, and was named after the block where Columbia Records\' office was located. Fans purchased over seven million copies on the strength of the hits \"My Life\", \"Big Shot,\" and \"Honesty.\" 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. 52nd Street was the first album to be released on Compact Disc in Japan (1982). The album won Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male & Album of the Year.
GLASS HOUSES (1980)
Joel always wanted to be a rocker. The success of his piano-driven ballads like \"Just the Way You Are\" and \"Honesty\" never sat well with him. With Glass Houses, Joel attacked the new wave popularity with aplomb. This album yielded such classics as \"You May Be Right\" (#7, May 1980), \"Close To The Borderline\"(flipside of the \"You May Be Right\" single), \"It\'s Still Rock & Roll To Me,\" \"Don\'t Ask Me Why\" (#19, September 1980), \"All For Leyna,\" and \"Sometimes A Fantasy\" (#36, November 1980). \"It\'s Still Rock & Roll to Me\" became Joel\'s first Billboard #1 song in July 1980. 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.
SONGS IN THE ATTIC (1981)
His next release, Songs In The Attic, was comprised of live performances of less well-known songs from the beginning of his career. Songs In The Attic was recorded during arena and club shows in June and July of 1980. This release introduced many fans, who just discovered Joel when The Stranger became a smash in 1977, to many of his earlier compositions.
BUILDING ON SUCCESS 1982-1986
THE NYLON CURTAIN (1982)
The next wave of Joel\'s career commenced with the recording of The Nylon Curtain. Considered his most audacious and ambitious album, Joel took a more than a page or two from the Lennon-McCartney songwriting style on this heavily Beatles-influenced album.
Work began on The Nylon Curtain in the spring of 1982. However, Joel was sidelined when he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident. The driver ran a red light and collided with Joel, who was on his motorcycle. His left wrist was broken and his hand badly damaged. Thanks to surgery (which included the temporary insertion of five pins into his wrist) and a month in the hospital, production of the album was temporarily shut down while Joel recovered.
In the meantime, Joel\'s first video special, Live from Long Island, was recorded at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, on December 30, 1982.
The Nylon Curtain went to #7 on the charts, supported by the popular singles \"Allentown\", Goodnight Saigon, and Pressure. Allentown rose to #17 on the Billboard Hot 100, making it one of the most-played radio songs of 1982 and the most successful song from The Nylon Curtain album.
Joel\'s marriage began to suffer as his success rose. It came to a head on July 20, 1983, when Joel and wife Elizabeth divorced. In accordance with the divorce agreement, Elizabeth took half of the singer\'s assets.
Following his tour supporting The Nylon Curtain, Joel retreated to the island of St. Bart\'s for rest and relaxation. At the hotel\'s bar, he met supermodel Christie Brinkley, who had been divorced from her husband Jean-Fran?ois Allaux. They eventually became a couple and married on March 23, 1985.
AN INNOCENT MAN (1983)
The song \"Uptown Girl\" was one of the first songs written when Joel returned from vacation. \"Uptown Girl\" was conceived as Joel wondered aloud how the gorgeous Christie Brinkley could wind up with such a guy like himself. It became a worldwide hit upon its release, and Joel\'s sole #1 in the United Kingdom. The resulting album, An Innocent Man was compiled as a tribute to the doo-wop music of the 1950s, and also resulted in Joel\'s second Billboard #1 hit, \"Tell Her About It.\" The album, which reached #4 on the charts, boasted six top-30 singles, the most of any album in Joel\'s catalog. The album would also be nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy, but it would lose to the inevitable winner Michael Jackson\'s Thriller.
GREATEST HITS VOL.1 AN D 2. (1985)
Following the success of An Innocent Man, 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 Joel had initially considered \"Greatest Hits\" albums as marking the end of one\'s career. This time, he agreed, and Greatest Hits Vol. 1 and 2 was released as a four-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.
Greatest Hits was highly successful, selling over twenty million copies worldwide and becoming the top selling double album of all time by a solo artist (and second overall after The Wall by Pink Floyd). It has since been certified diamond by the RIAA for 10.5 million albums sold (21 million disks). To date it is the 6th best selling album in American music history according to the RIAA.
Coinciding with the Greatest Hits album release, Joel released a two-volume Video Album that was a compilation of the promotional videos he had recorded from 1977 to the present time. Along with videos for the new singles off the Greatest Hits album, Joel also recorded a video for his first hit, \"Piano Man\" for this project.
Two versions of Greatest Hits were released on CD: the initial release on double CD in 1985, and a re-released Enhanced CD version in 1998. While both are the same basic album in general, there are a number of subtle differences between the two:
While all the longer hits (\"Piano Man,\" \"Captain Jack,\" \"Goodnight Saigon\") are fully intact, many other shorter songs (\"Pressure,\" \"Just The Way You Are,\" \"My Life\") were shortened significantly in the 1985 release. Oddly enough, the included booklet lists all of the lyrics, even the parts cut for time. These songs are fully restored in the re-release.
The 1985 release features the live version of \"Say Goodbye to Hollywood\" from Songs in the Attic. The version from Turnstiles was used for the 1998 re-release.
The 1998 re-release features enhanced content due to advancements in CD technology over the previous 13 years.
THE BRIDGE (1986)
Joel had already scored a hit with \"Modern Woman\" from the 1985 movie, \"Ruthless People,\" (starring Bette Midler, Danny DeVito and Judge Reinhold) when he began work on the album that would become The Bridge in early 1986. Ray Charles contributed vocals and music to the song \"Baby Grand\" with Joel, and Steve Winwood played Hammond organ on the song \"Getting Closer.\" The final song recorded for the album was \"Code Of Silence.\" Cyndi Lauper appears on the album, contributing backing vocals.
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 hit \"A Matter Of Trust.\" In a departure from his \"piano man\" persona, Joel is shown in its video as playing a Les Paul-autographed Gibson guitar. The ballad \"This Is The Time\" also charted, and has been a favorite on the prom circuit ever since. \"Modern Woman\" was also released as a single and was quite successful, but Joel has since said in interviews he doesn\'t care for the song, and subsequently it has been left off most of his compilation sets (the exception appears to be My Lives).
It was also the last Billy Joel album to carry the \"Family Productions\" logo.
At around this time, Billy completed voice work on Disney\'s Oliver & Company, released in 1988. A loose adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, Billy brought both his acting and musical talents to the film as Dodger. For the film, Billy recorded a song titled \"Why Should I Worry?\" Critics were generally positive towards the film and pointed to Billy\'s acting contribution as one of its highlights, despite it being his first acting job. In interviews, Billy explained that he took the job due to his love of Disney cartoons as a child.
THE USSR PERIOD 1987-1989
Throughout his tour supporting The Bridge, Joel and his handlers started planning a trip to the Soviet Union over the summer of 1987. He would be the first American rock act to play there since the Berlin Wall went up, a fact not lost on history buff Joel. There would be six live performances, three each at indoor arenas in Moscow and Leningrad. Joel and his family (including young daughter Alexa) and his full touring band made the trip in June, 1987. The entourage was filmed for television and video to eventually offset the cost of the trip, and the concerts were simulcast on radio around the world.
The audience in at least the first Moscow shows was filled with members of the Communist Party, who received tickets from the government as a perk. Most of that audience took a long while to warm up to Joel\'s energetic show, something that never had happened in other countries he had performed in. As a result of that a minor international incident occurred when he famously flipped over an electric keyboard during the second Moscow show as a show of frustration that his lighting engineers would not turn down the house lights to calm the audience despite several requests. The lighting engineers were more concerned with the amount of light being adequate for filming
LATER ALBUMS 1989-1994
STORM FRONT (1989)
The song \"We Didn\'t Start the Fire,\" the first single from the album Storm Front, was released in September 1989. The song became Joel\'s third US Number 1 hit.
Storm Front was released in October, and it eventually became Joel\'s first Number 1 album since Glass Houses, nine years previously. Storm Front was Joel\'s first album since Turnstiles to have been recorded without Phil Ramone as producer. For this album, he wanted a new sound, and worked with Mick Jones of Foreigner fame. Joel also brought in some fresh faces to join the band, including talented multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero, who would go on to become Joel\'s musical director and architect of his live sound. After \"We Didn\'t Start The Fire,\" Storm Front also produced the hit \"I Go To Extremes.\" The album was also notable for its song \"Leningrad,\" written after Joel met a clown in the Soviet city 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 was the ballad \"And So It Goes.\"
In 1992, Joel sued former manager and ex-brother-in-law Frank Weber (ex-wife Elizabeth\'s brother) for $95 million after accounting irregularities were discovered. The case was later settled out of court.
RIVER OF DREAMS (1993)
Joel started work on River Of Dreams 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 Joel has penned to date.
August 1995, Billy Joel\'s long-time bassist Doug Stegmeyer committed suicide in his Long Island home. Stegmeyer had played on every one of Joel\'s albums from Turnstiles through The Bridge.
In 1999, Joel performed at New York\'s Madison Square Garden on the eve of the new millennium which at the time was considered to be Joel\'s last solo concert, The concert (dubbed The Night Of The 2000 Years) ran on close to four hours and would later be released as 2000 Years: The Millennium Concert
In 2001, Joel released Fantasies & Delusions, a collection of classical piano pieces. All were written by Billy Joel and performed by Richard Joo. Joel often uses bits of these songs as interludes in live performances. The album topped the classical charts at # 1.
Joel has toured extensively with Elton John on a series of \"Face to Face\" tours. During these shows, the two have played each other\'s songs and performed duets.
In 2005, Columbia released a box set, My Lives, which is largely a compilation of demos, B-tracks, and live/alternate versions to hit songs. 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, Joel began a tour across the United States. Having not written any new songs, he featured a sampling of all his songs in his career, including his major hits. His tour includes an unprecedented twelve sold-out concerts over several months at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
On June 13, 2006, Joel released \"12 Gardens: Live\", a double album containing 32 live recordings from a collection of 12 different shows at Madison Square Garden during his 2006 tour. 2006 also saw Billy Joel visit the United Kingdom and Ireland (as part of the European leg of his 2006 tour) for the first time in many years, playing to capacity crowds in Birmingham, Sheffield, Southampton, Manchester, Glasgow, London and Dublin.
The singer\'s stint of twelve shows at Madison Square Garden broke a previous record set by New Jersey native, Bruce Springsteen when he played eleven sold-out shows at the same arena.
The record has consequently earned Joel the only retired number in the arena owned by a non-athlete. The retired number, which was 12, hangs in the rafters along with many others such as hockey great Mark Messier.
On July 31, 2006, Joel performed a free concert in Rome, Italy with the Colosseum as the backdrop, and performed classic hits for hundreds of thousands of fans. Joel performed favorites such as New York State of Mind, Honesty and Just the Way You Are.
While introducing one song, the 57-year-old singer joked in shaky Italian, \"This song is as old as the Colosseum.\"
Organizers estimated 500,000 people turned out for the show. The concert was opened by Canadian pop-rocker and songwriter Bryan Adams.
Billy Joel will tour South Africa, Australia, Japan, and Hawaii in late 2006.
Joel\'s lyrics have made many references to locations in the New York City metropolitan area, particularly Long Island, in his songs. For example, the \"Miracle Mile\" line in 1980\'s \"It\'s Still Rock & Roll to Me\" refers to the affluent shopping district located on Northern Boulevard in the community of Manhasset and 1980\'s \"You May Be Right\" references walking through the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn alone as proof of craziness. In his 1973 song \"The Ballad of Billy the Kid,\" he describes a certain \"Billy\" as being from Oyster Bay, the municipality in which the hamlet of Hicksville is located. He has since stated, in the liner notes from his album Songs in the Attic, that this \"Billy\" is not himself, but rather an Oyster Bay bartender.
Several of Joel\'s songs have grown out of specific personal experiences, including \"Piano Man,\" which he wrote describing his regular job playing at a Los Angeles piano bar in the early 1970s, and \"Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,\" purportedly written about either the Syosset mainstay Christiano\'s or a similar eatery in New York City\'s Little Italy. His song \"Vienna\" was supposedly written based on a visit to his father in Europe, while \"Big Shot\" was based on a bad date with Mick Jagger\'s ex-wife Bianca.
In a Playboy interview, Joel indicated that \"Rosalinda\'s Eyes\" was penned for his mother, Rosalind, as the song his father should have written for her.
\"Only The Good Die Young\" created a bit of a stir within the religious community when it was first released in 1977. Some radio stations even refused to give the song any airtime. It is said that while Joel was doing a show in St. Louis, he had been specifically asked not to perform the song during the show and even received death threats. In response, Joel played it twice. Joel has said about the song that \"the point of the song wasn\'t so much anti-Catholic as [it was] pro-lust\".
In the mid 1970s, the touring and studio lineup of Joel\'s band stabilized. The main lineup consisted of:
Billy Joel - lead vocals, piano, synthesizer, organ, harmonica
Liberty DeVitto ? drums, percussion
Doug Stegmeyer ? bass guitar, backing vocals
Russell Javors ? rhythm guitars, backing vocals
David Brown ? lead guitars
Richie Cannata ? saxophones, flute, clarinet, organ, backing vocals
This was also the lineup for Joel\'s first live album, Songs In The Attic.
The 1980s and 1990s saw significant changes to Joel\'s band. By the River of Dreams tour the only remaining long standing member of the band was DeVitto on drums. Multi-instrumentalists Crystal Taliefero and Mark Rivera joined and remain in his band to this day. Rivera had taken over the prominent saxophone solo in the song \"New York State of Mind\" that had previously been performed by Cannata (and was re-recorded by Rivera for the Greatest Hits version of the song). The 1993 River of Dreams tour saw the addition of Dave Rosenthal on keyboards who also remains with the band. Tommy Byrnes has become a frequent band member on guitar and was both a musical consultant and band member in the Movin\' Out musical. For the 2006 tour, Joel did not invite DeVitto back as drummer. Chuck Burgi (from the Broadway production of Joel\'s musical \'Movin\' Out\') replaced DeVitto. Richie Cannata returns on saxophones, along with Mark Rivera and Crystal Taliefero, with Cannata again performing the \"New York State Of Mind\" solo.
1971 - Cold Spring Harbor
1973 - Piano Man
1974 - Streetlife Serenade
1976 - Turnstiles
1977 - The Stranger
1978 - 52nd Street
1980 - Glass Houses
1981 - Songs in the Attic (Live)
1982 - The Nylon Curtain
1983 - An Innocent Man
1985 - Greatest Hits, Vols. 1 & 2 (1973-1985)
1986 - The Bridge
1987 - КОНЦЕРТ (Live)
1989 - Storm Front
1993 - River of Dreams
1997 - Greatest Hits, Vol. 3 (compilation)
1997 - The Complete Hits Collection: 1973?1997
2000 - Years: The Millennium Concert (Live)
2001 - Fantasies & Delusions (performed by Richard Joo)
2001 - Billy Joel- The Ultimate Collection (compilation)
2001 - The Essential Billy Joel (compilation)
2002 - Pak: Piano Man, 52nd Street, Kohuept
2002 - 3 Pak: The Bridge, Storm Front, The Nylon Curtain
2002 - Movin\' Out Original Broadway Cast Recording
2004 - Piano Man: The Very Best of Billy Joel (compilation)
2004 - The Collection: Piano Man, 52nd Street, Kohuept
2006 - My Lives (compilation)12 Gardens Live (Live)