Song of the Day #3,321: ‘Rosalinda’s Eyes’ – Billy Joel vs. Paul Simon

Welcome to Round Four of Montauk Madness! The Elite Eight! Four contests that, if everything has worked out according to plan, will have you pulling your hair out trying to pick winners.

Our first battle faces off a couple of legendary New Yorkers: Billy Joel and Paul Simon. Joel defeated Michael Penn in Round One, Frank Sinatra in Round Two and Van Morrison in Round Three. Simon took out Elton John, Sting and Lucinda Williams. I voted for both of them every step of the way.

Here is where my own rules start catching up with me. I made the decision to split Paul Simon from Simon & Garfunkel (a bad call, in retrospect) so I have to consider only Simon’s solo work for this contest. While I was incredulously watching people vote for Taylor Swift over Simon & Garfunkel, I realized that arguably Simon’s very best work was with S&G. And none of that matters here.

Of course, that still leaves us with Graceland, Rhythm of the Saints, Still Crazy After All These Years, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, Hearts and Bones, and So Beautiful or So What as well as a half dozen more lesser but occasionally brilliant albums.

As for Billy Joel, I’d list his best albums as The Stranger, 52nd Street, The Nylon Curtain, Glass Houses and Turnstiles. But Cold Spring Harbor, The Bridge,
Piano Man, Streetlife Serenade and An Innocent Man are all very solid. Even his last couple of albums (which I recently rather harshly dismissed as “clunkers”) feature several wonderful songs.

I have a sentimental attachment to both of these guys dating back to my childhood, though the Billy Joel love started earlier. I wasn’t even ten years old when I was rocking out to ‘Stiletto.’ A nostalgic pull like that could be enough to push him past the finish line here.

But after much soul searching, I’m going to side with Paul Simon. I think his best work edges out Joel’s, if only slightly, and he has explored a broader range of genres (African and Brazilian music, Broadway, even something approximating electronica).

That said, I’ll be perfectly happy if the piano man advances.

[Verse 1]
I play nights in the Spanish part of town
I’ve got music in my hands
The work is hard to find, but that don’t get me down
Rosalinda understands

Crazy Latin dancing solo down in Herald Square
Oh, Havana, I’ve been searching for you everywhere
And though I’ll never be there
I know what I would see there
I can always find my Cuban skies
In Rosalinda’s eyes

[Verse 2]
When she smiles she gives everything to me
When she’s all alone, she cries
And I’d do anything to take away her tears
Because they’re Rosalinda’s eyes

Señorita don’t be lonely, I will soon be there
Oh, Havana, I’ve been searching for you everywhere
I’ve got a chance to make it
It’s time for me to take it
I’ll return before the fire dies
In Rosalinda’s eyes

[Verse 3]
All alone in a Puerto Rican band
Union wages, wedding clothes
Hardly anyone has seen how good I am
But Rosalinda says she knows

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #3,321: ‘Rosalinda’s Eyes’ – Billy Joel vs. Paul Simon

  1. Madison says:

    It’s gonna be the piano man for me, though of course it is tougher to vote against Simon after tearing down S&G too. I was hoping to be able to give him one more vote of support, I happen to think plenty of his best work is solo and, of course, he is the brain behind the best S&G work. I’ll be happy to see him advance too. This round won’t be easy 🙃

  2. Dana says:

    Ugh! This one is really tough!

    When I first saw the matchup, my initial reaction was to pick Simon, but then I remembered that you had split Simon’s career between solo and S&G. I too feel much of Simon’s best work was with S&G and, had today’s contest included the entirety of Simon’s catalog, this would be an easier pick for Simon.

    Considering only Simon’s solo work, however, he has obviously put out some incredible songs and albums, including those you mentioned. Arguably, however, Simon has released more “clunkers” or at least a number of forgettable songs/albums than Joel. Even an otherwise great album like Hearts and Bones has the otherwise unforgivable “Cars are Cars.”

    As for Joel, even his weaker albums are far from “clunkers” in my view. And, as much as I love Simon, Billy Joel has been my personal favorite for longer and more consistently.

    So, for all of these reasons, I am going to cast my vote for the Piano Man here, though I too will be okay if Simon advances.

  3. Peg says:

    I agree with all of the above; such a tough choice for me as well; but I am going with Joel even though I would be okay with Simon if he wins this round.

  4. The Cool Guy (Daniel) says:

    I don’t think there will be a single vote in this round that won’t cause some consternation among us voters. I have dwelled on this decision all morning but I’m satisfied with the decision I have made. First off I’d like to say, that contrary to what everyone on this blog seems to believe, I think that Simon’s best work definitely came after his departure from Simon & Garfunkel. Albums like Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints surpass in my mind the work on albums like Bookends and Sound of Silence. (Both my favorite and in opinion best albums from the different mediums of Simon’s creative mind). That being said, I still find that I must choose Billy Joel over Paul Simon. From the position of a musician, I find that I’m able to empathize more with Billy Joel if that makes sense. I probably will never make world music and much of Paul Simon’s work is a bit more abstract whereas I find Billy Joel’s discography more tangible and relatable from a writers standpoint. A goal that I could achieve. Though I love Paul Simon’s work and honestly will be happy if he continues, I think I must go with my personal preference here which is Billy Joel. I can turn on pretty much any Billy Joel album and start thinking it’s my favorite Billy Joel album since there’s such amazing songs on each record. Of course, that could also be said about Paul Simon, though I think Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints are in a league of their own whereas Billy Joel’s work spreads out more consistently. I don’t really know. This is probably the hardest one to rationalize a final decision on so far but I’ve gotta go with Joel.

  5. Amy says:

    I decided to listen to Billy Joel on the way to work this morning and asked Siri to play me some of his songs. The first four out the gate I opted to skip either because I don’t really like them (“We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “I Go to Extremes”) or because they were just a bit much for an early Monday morning (“Goodnight Saigon” and “Piano Man.” I was all set to cast my vote for Simon, when song #5 began. With the opening notes of “Vienna,” I realized that it’s not about how the two stack up song by song (a battle I believe Simon wins), but how any individual song resonates with me.

    As we walked “north of Houston and south of Grand” earlier this summer, my family of four belted these lyrics street after street. We do the same with “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (the song Daniel offered up for what wound up being a very amusing Second City improv game on te cruise we took), “Only the Goid Die Young,” “For the Longest Time,” “Leave a Tender Moment Alone,” and on and on.

    Even though I can easily argue that Paul Simon’s songs (and I am opting to includeS&G in my comparison regardless of your silly rules) are superior to Joel’s, I’m not sure one of them stops me in my tracks the way “And So It Goes” or “Vienna” does, so, while this is a difficult vote for me to cast, I’m going with Billy Joel.

  6. Amy says:

    I repeated my song exercise with Paul Simon yesterday morning. When the first song up was “American Tune,” I almost pulled my car over to change my vote.

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