Music, Pop Culture

I Like Billy Joel. There, I Said It. I SAID IT! Are You Happy, Now?

I often find myself apologizing for liking Billy Joel.
Or I won’t even admit that I like him at all.
I’ll turn my back on Billy and jump in with the teasing about his songs being too loungy, too gauge your ears in with the closest sharp object. I’ll make fun of his over-elation of using gratuitous sound effects and his transparent storytelling tactics. Cast in a dark shadow of shame, I’ll sit there making fun of this musician I love more than broccoli but less than corn chowder soup. Lifting up away from my body, I look down at this insecure girl, afraid to confidentially say to the world, “Billy Joel is good. Billy Joel is great.”

Well, I’m tired of that girl. I kicked her off the scooter somewhere on Pretentious Ave. and am reclaiming the child that used to write the lyrics to ‘Captain Jack’ in marker on her vanity mirror and cry.

Out of the light rock FM closet I’m here to confirm a couple of statements:
 -I love Billy Joel.
-I think Billy Joel’s music is as treasureful as Cadbury Eggs.
-I relate to Billy Joel’s music even though I’m a.) not male b.) did not grow up in Levittown during the 50’s.
-Billy Joel is an excellent musician that should be respected and not made fun of.

I didn’t grow up to listening to Billy Joel. I grew up listening to his doughy English counterpart Elton John. Elton John was my man. In fact, he was really my man. I thought we were going to get married. I thought that his soft, white English tummy and chest hair crammed into a sequined leotard was sexy. I did not like Billy Joel. I thought he was a lesser Elton John. He wasn’t sexy and he sang about real things like coal miners and trying to decide which bottle of wine to order at an Italian restaurant and not cool things like mohair suits and little tiny girls in people’s hands.

I don’t exactly remember the day that I started liking Billy Joel. It might have been that day in the department store when I was literally struck down by the lyrics to Billy Joel’s ode to his daughter ‘Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)’. I laid on the patterned carpet floor completely immobile from the severity of emotions that song brings, ‘Some day we’ll all be gone but lullabies go on and on, they never die that’s how you and I will be.’ That song is like an instant tear duct enema. Even just looking up the lyrics to that song right now caused my face to create a two second cry cringe on my face that I’m hoping no one in the office saw.

Or it might have been the day that I first heard the lyrics to Joel’s ‘Captain Jack’- a song I had zero relation to yet felt a kinship towards the masturbating, booger-picking Long Island junkie featured in the song. ‘Captain Jack’ captured, to me, everything that Bret Easton Ellis has strived for in his novels- minimalistic visual nihilism, apathy, and glam, ‘So you got everything, ah, but nothing’s cool. They just found your father in the swimming pool. And you guess you won’t be going back to school anymore.’ Sounds like East Austin.

Or maybe it was the day I finally listened to the lyrics of ‘Piano Man’ and clearly saw an image of my father, the piano player, sitting at his barroom piano being requested time and time and again to play this song by stoned businessmen, waitresses practicing politics, and real estate novelists and contemplating the meta of it all.

Or maybe it was the day my high school boyfriend secretly dedicated ‘She’s Always a Woman’ to me. Or the day I first heard the ‘ssss-choo-ha!’ of Joel’s Pennsylvania love letter ‘Allentown’ and thought, “Wow, now that’s annoyingly catchy!”. Or the day I realized that Joel was Long Island’s answer to Springsteen. Or the day I realized that Billy Joel is actually a damn fine song writer no matter how much he looks like the equivocal to a 1950’s Warner Brother’s cartoon of a rosy-nosed drunk.

This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to find myself a Billy Joel t-shirt and I’m going to wear it. And not in an ironic way. In a “I actually really really like Billy Joel in a non-ironic way” way. Then I’m going to tell everyone they should do the same. Then if Billy Joel goes the hipster wayside such as Michael McDonald or Hall & Oates have, I’m going to discard the t-shirt and wallow in my Billy Joel love all by myself!

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  • Reply Ludwig July 8, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Since I was born/raised on LI, I was more-or-less obligated by law to love Billy and know his whole family's names. I remember sitting in the back of mom's car with a friend when we were little, hearing Movin Out on the radio, and cracking up every time Billy said "Heart AttACK-ACK-ACK-ACK". Eventually, the song really grew on me.

  • Reply Nicole July 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    I love Billy as well. You are not alone.

  • Reply Brooke Farmer July 8, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Sometimes I think we are the same person living two very different lives in a parallel universe.

  • Reply skrapnel July 8, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Love this post!

    The first time I heard Billy Joel, I was 8 years old at Summer Camp. Our cabin counselor loved Billy Joel, and would play him all the time. IT was really an interesting sound, the keyboard and his voice. I remember thinking it was so different.

    IN my teens, I heard Captain Jack, and lost it. So powerful and full of angst, isolation and longing, I couldn't help but cry. It really was so edgy.

    As I got older, Billy Joel crossed over to Light Radio. I still can't figure out what happened.

    Thank you for reminding me 🙂

  • Reply smedette July 8, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    You know, I really like Billy Joel. I think he's a very talented pianist and he can put on a great live show.

    I still remember when he stopped his performance at the Grammy's (1994?) to look at his watch and say something like "Wasting valuable advertising time" after Frank Sinatra's acceptance speech had been cut off.

    My favorite Billy Joel story: The one and only time I sang at a karaoke bar, I was very drunk and decided I was going to belt out "Piano Man". When the opening bars of music started, some dude in the crowd jumped up, grabbed the other microphone, pulled out a harmonica and accompanied me throughout the song – including a solo. The Karaoke Gods were smiling that night.

  • Reply Meredith July 8, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    I don't think Billy Joel is Italian…

  • Reply Meredith July 8, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    Also, this post made me want to listen to Captain Jack immediately.

  • Reply Hipstercrite July 8, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    @Ludwig- I can just picture a younger you driving around Long Island listening to Billy Joel. It makes me smile!

    @Nicole- Yay!

    @Brooke- I hope I meet you one day!

    @Skrapnel- Captain Jack really is a powerful song, huh? They song always gets me. A lot of his songs do. I think being from NY I feel like I know some of the characters he is talking about.

    @Smedette- Oh my God! That is epic! Love it! I wish stuff like that happened to me at karaoke 🙁

    @Meredith- I can't believe I made that faux pas. He's a Jew too! I should have known that!!! Argh! Doesn't he sing a lot about Italians though?

  • Reply Dave July 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    Make any hater sit down and watch "Travelin' Prayer" on the "Midnight Special." If they don't understand Billy after that, they are a lost cause.

  • Reply Genfik July 9, 2011 at 12:25 am

    yay.. to say truth first time i heard about Billy Joel was this song presented by in my country by one of "popular" singer during the summer of 83s . (i dint take care much because i was in "love" with Jethro Tull during this time.. .so nevermind 🙂

  • Reply kimmie coco puff July 9, 2011 at 7:14 am

    I'd like to think he didn't start the fire. Perhaps it is the drought. LOVE LOVE LOVE his music….it's toasty up in here:)

  • Reply Teeny July 10, 2011 at 9:57 am

    sometimes i find myself singing along to Billy Joel and smiling…and then I'm like wtf? and i look around to see if anyone saw. Even if it's just me in the kitchen. shame be damned! I'm coming out! i love Billy Joel too!

  • Reply Paul Banks July 10, 2011 at 10:36 am

    This might be my favorite blog post of all time. Billy Joel is brilliant. His songs are powerful. If someone listens to "And So It Goes" or "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" without crying or coming close, I don't want to be friends with that someone.

  • Reply Rebecca July 10, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    I heart Billy so much. One of the best moments of my life was getting off an overnight train to Rome to be presented with a poster advertising his FREE concert in front of the Colosseum that night. Italian Restaurant in Italy? Priceless.

  • Reply ClevelandPoet July 10, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    own it and be one with the joel!

    ever see the robot chicken skit about billy joel?

    down on your knees for the piano man


  • Reply Amanda July 11, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I am often a closeted Billy Joel lover, but as soon as I'm alone in my apartment, there's nothing like blasting his music and singing super loud and hoping my neighbors don't hear.

  • Reply badlandsbadley July 11, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    My wife thought I was crazy for buying some Billy Joel vinyls. Then she listened to Piano Man.

    She no longer questions my musical tastes.

  • Reply The Frustrated Dinosaur July 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm


  • Reply The Frustrated Dinosaur July 11, 2011 at 11:17 pm


  • Reply The Frustrated Dinosaur July 11, 2011 at 11:17 pm


  • Reply Keefieboy February 7, 2013 at 11:14 am

    We all have our little secrets, don’t we? Mine is Abba, although I do like Billy Joel too. But in public, I’m Mr Pink Floyd / Led Zeppelin / Muse and stuff like that.

  • Reply Pipsqueak April 23, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I don’t know how long ago this was written but I was doing some serious Billy stalking and stumbled upon it and loved reading it! The last part I felt really connected to:
    I’m going to find myself a Billy Joel t-shirt and I’m going to wear it. And not in an ironic way. In a “I actually really really like Billy Joel in a non-ironic way”

    The funny thing is that I was amazingly lucky enough to see Billy perform on the 21st of April in Sydney !!! *insert fan girl squeal* and guess what I did?!…… that’s right! I bought myself a top with Billy’s (much younger) face on it! And yesterday I proudly strode into university with his face proudly presented on my clothing.

    I’m 19, I spent well over $300 to travel from Melbourne and see him perform and I proudly bought a top with his face on it and wore it to my University!

    You go out there and find that top! And you wear it proudly and say to the world “I LOVE BILLY JOEL”

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