Now I know what a great song this is, and how great Billy Joel is, and I suspect most of my regular readers share that opinion… but the man does not get much respect in the “cool” circles. So I’m heartened to see Antonoff unabashedly express his appreciation for a great songwriter.
‘Piano Man’ has the honor of being the song I most misunderstood as a kid.
The year was somewhere between 1981-1986, making me somewhere between 9 and 14. I hope I was closer to 9.
Billy Joel is another strand in the ‘Piano Men (And Women)’ segment of my personal musical genome. That’s fitting, considering he gave it its name. And I didn’t feel right selecting any other song to represent him.
Joel doesn’t bridge any of my other categories in a meaningful way. Apart from the cinematic intro to ‘The Ballad of Billy the Kid,’ he’s never dabbled in country. His experiments with doo-wop and 50s pop on An Innocent Man aren’t exactly what I have in mind for my ‘Pure Pop’ category. And his street-smart style in no way derives from folk rock.
The Stranger – Billy Joel (1977)
It all comes back to the whistling. That plaintive but sensual whistled melody that opens the title track of Billy Joel’s The Stranger and then returns as the coda after the album’s final song. It settles you into the world of this marvelous record and prepares you for the treasures within.
52nd Street – Billy Joel (1978)
I’ve never understood why Billy Joel gets such a bad rap. Just the other day I happened upon a Slate article titled ‘The Worst Pop Singer Ever: Why, Exactly is Bill Joel So Bad?’
That’s the sort of garbage that only gets written about artists who are beloved by “the masses” and therefore un-hip.