Billy Joel – ‘Piano Man’
  • Writer: Billy Joel
  • Producer: Michael Stewart
  • Released: 1973
  • Player: Billy Joel — piano, vocals
  • Album: Piano Man (Columbia, 1973)
  • Also On:
    Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II (Columbia, 1985)
    The Complete Hits Collection 1973-1997: Limited Edition (Sony, 1997)
    Greatest Hits Volume I, II & III (Columbia, 2000)
    The Essential Billy Joel (Sony, 2001)
  • Billy Joel was first inspired to make music after seeing the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. Joel’s first band was the Echoes, a local outfit on Long Island, New York, that played mostly U.K. hits. His second band, the Hassles, actually recorded two albums and released four singles in the late ’60s — the first of which, a cover of Sam & Dave‘s “You Got Me Hummin’,” remained a live staple of Joel’s performances throughout the ’80s.
  • Joel also tried his hand at a hard rock project called Attila, which consisted of organ and drums. The disastrous failure of the band was severe enough to send him to a psychiatric hospital for depression.
  • Piano Man was Joel’s second solo album. His first, Cold Spring Harbor, was a bitter disappointment of bad production and mastering.
  • The failure of Cold Spring Harbor sent Joel across the country into the relative seclusion of the Executive Room, a piano bar in Los Angeles where he spent six months. Apparently embarrassed by the lounge atmosphere, Joel played under the name Bill Martin (Martin being his middle name) during his stint there.
  • It was Joel’s experiences at the Executive Room that prompted him to write “Piano Man.” It was his first hit single as a solo artist, reaching Number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • The Piano Man album peaked at Number 27 on the Billboard 200, eventually reaching gold status some two years later.

FAST FORWARD:

  • Joel has received career citations from the publishing house ASCAP; the Songwriters Hall Of Fame; the Grammys, which gave him the Living Legend Award in 1990; Billboard magazine, which gave him its Century Award in 1994; the American Music Awards, which gave him the Lifetime Achievement award in 1999; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, when he was inducted by his idol, Ray Charles.
  • Joel stopped recording pop music after 1993’s River Of Dreams and has since devoted himself to classical and instrumental music. He released his first classical album in 2001 and has said he’ll continue in that vein. However, he’s continued to tour, both by himself and with Elton John in their Face To Face concerts.
  • Joel was in a number of car crashes not far from his home in 2002, 2003, and 2004. He’s also done a few stays in rehab to combat his drinking problem.
  • A stage production called Movin’ Out, which paired Joel’s music with choreography by Twyla Tharp, had a long, successful run on Broadway in New York City. Joel shared the Tony Award for Best Orchestrations with Stuart Malina.
  • In June 2003, Joel presented songwriter Jimmy Webb with the Johnny Mercer Award at the annual Songwriters Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in New York City. Webb gave Joel the Mercer Award in 2001.
  • Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” was inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in January 2004.

Joel married 23-year-old Katie Lee at his Long Island estate in October 2004. It was her first marriage, and his third.