May 9, 2008
It’s Billy Joel’s birthday today.
A lot of people see him as a schlockmeister-pumping out radio friendly formula pop for the masses. Which he was, at times, to be sure-“An Innocent Man” was an album you could scarcely get away from for a couple of summers, with hit after video laden hit. And I have to admit, as big of a fan as I am, there are a handful of songs, (“She’s Always A Woman”, “Just The Way You Are”, “We Didn’t Start The Fire”), I could go the rest of my life without hearing again.
I have loved Billy Joel’s music since a friend in high school introduced him to me during my sophomore year. I had heard of him, of course-if you were sentient during the 1980s and near a radio or television, you recognized Billy Joel-but something about his harder edged, more emotional stuff touched a chord in my metalhead heart.
Since then, I quickly swallowed and committed to memory everything he had ever recorded-B sides, live tracks, everything. With the advent of the Internet and box sets, this process has become much easier, but my friend and I went to Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, back in the day, to find one missing single that he had found in a discography in a cheap photo biography he had bought. It was deeply amusing to me that, subsequent to his tireless efforts to collect all of Billy’s recordings, they were all published in a box set a few winters ago, which I, of course, bought.
If I had to take the recordings of one person or group with me into lifetime solitary confinement, it would without question be Billy Joel. He has turned a bit cranky in his dotage (he’s 59, according to NPR), but he has brought me more joy than nearly any artist I can think of. I raise a rhetorical glass in his honor today. (I don’t drink.)
In the sixth, Boston leads Minnesota, 6-5. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be recapping this one tomorrow, as I am fading fast.