Happy 71st birthday to the piano man himself, Billy Joel! Born in 1949 in the Bronx, Billy Joel has risen the ranks in musical talent and cemented himself as one of New York’s proudest songwriters.
Growing up with his family in Hicksville, Long Island, Joel got his start playing piano in high school but didn’t seriously consider music as his life path until a lack of credits in his senior year led him to drop out of school, despite his good grades. Recalling his decision back in the early days to pursue music, Joel was quoted in Hank Bordowitz’s biography Billy Joel: The Life and Times of an Angry Young Man (2006) that rather than spending his summer in school trying to make up credits, he would instead begin a career in music saying, ‘To hell with it. If I’m not going to Columbia University, I’m going to Columbia Records, and you don’t need a high school diploma over there’. Although Joel did eventually graduate in 1992, his legacy in music far outreaches the dreams and aspirations of the average high school student.
Since then, Joel has become one of New York’s most recognizable musical prodigies. Despite his rise to global fame, Joel still has a sweet spot for where he grew up. In his song “New York State of Mind” from the 1976 album Turnstiles, which has become almost an anthem for New Yorkers, Joel reminisces about unique experiences only a true New Yorker would resonate with. Filled with lines about long greyhound bus trips, the Daily News and the Hudson River, the tune has become synonymous with both New York City and Joel himself.
New York has remained at the center of Joel’s life, currently still residing in the great Empire State, Joel has indeed become a staple of New York and remains at the center of many New Yorker’s hearts. The fate of Joel’s upcoming tour is still up in the air but, until then, crack open a beer and propose a toast to the Piano Man’s 71st.