My final pick for the upcoming Billy Joel anthology series is ‘Big Man on Mulberry Street,’ the epic, jazzy centerpiece of Joel’s 1986 album The Bridge. This is one of Joel’s best songs, so different than so much of what preceded it, yet still quintessentially him.
The song features one of Joel’s great characters, a small-time New Yorker with big-time dreams. This guy, with the right writing and acting, could be an incredibly rich character.
1986’s The Bridge was Billy Joel’s last great album and my fifth favorite of his albums (I’ll let you guess the other four). It contains only nine songs but they’re uniformly strong. The one minor exception is the rather maudlin ‘This is the Time,’ which probably wasn’t written for a high school prom but may as well have been.
The album features a few high-profile collaborations, including a wonderful duet with Ray Charles on ‘Baby Grand.’ I remember when I first heard that song I remarked that Joel sounded like Ray Charles on the first verse and was shocked when the actual Ray Charles jumped in on the second.