A few weeks back, we had a family movie night and watched 13 Going On 30, an under seen and underrated 2004 film. It’s a “young kid in a grown-up body” movie starring Jennifer Garner and Mark Ruffalo, and in my opinion the best of its genre, topping even Tom Hanks’ Big.
But when I listen to it again, it feels like the only song in the world I’ll ever need.
It’s so beautifully written and performed, so expertly produced by Phil Ramone, and its message is so simple and profound. It’s truly perfect.
The man is an unapologetic fan of so many musicians, not to mention a damn fine musician himself, and he never passes up an opportunity to turn a standard guest spot into a YouTube moment.
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.