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Billy Joel Tour Overview

William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American singer, pianist, and songwriter. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his signature 1973 song of the same name, Joel has had a successful music career as a solo artist since the 1970s. From 1971 to 1993, he released twelve studio albums that spanned the genres of pop and rock music, and in 2001 released an album of classical music compositions. Joel is one of the best-selling music artists; the seventh-best-selling recording artist and the fourth-best-selling solo artist in the United States, with over 160 million records sold worldwide. His 1985 compilation album, Greatest Hits – Volume I & Volume II, is one of the best-selling albums in the United States.

Born in New York City, in the Bronx, Joel grew up on Long Island. Growing up, he took piano lessons at his mother's insistence. After dropping out of high school to pursue a music career, Joel took part in two short-lived bands, The Hassles and Attila, before signing a record deal with Family Productions and starting off a solo career in 1971 with his first release Cold Spring Harbor. In 1972, Joel caught the attention of Columbia Records after a live radio performance of the song "Captain Jack" became popular in Philadelphia, prompting him to sign a new record deal with the company and release his second album, Piano Man, in 1973. After Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles in 1974 and 1976 respectively, Joel released his critical and commercial breakthrough album, The Stranger, in 1977. This album became Columbia's bestselling release, selling over 10 million copies and spawning several hit singles, including "Just the Way You Are", "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)", "Only the Good Die Young", and "She's Always a Woman"; the album also contains the popular album tracks "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", Joel's favorite of his own songs which has become a firm staple of his live shows, and "Vienna", also one of Joel's personal favorites and nowadays one of his most streamed songs on the internet.

About Billy Joel

William Martin Joel was born on May 9, 1949, in the Bronx, New York. When he was one year old, his family moved to the Long Island suburb of Hicksville, in the town of Oyster Bay, where he and his cousin Judy, whom his parents adopted, were raised in a section of Levitt homes.

Joel's father, Howard (born Helmut) Joel (1923–2011), a classical pianist and businessman, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, to a Jewish family, the son of merchant and manufacturer Karl Amson Joel, and educated in Switzerland. His father had created a highly successful mail-order textile business, Joel Macht Fabrik. To escape the Nazi regime, Howard's family emigrated to Switzerland. His father sold his business at a fraction of its value to emigrate. The family reached the United States via Cuba, because immigration quotas for German Jews prevented direct immigration at the time. In the United States, Howard became an engineer but always loved music. Joel's mother, Rosalind (1922–2014), was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish parents, Philip and Rebecca Nyman, who emigrated from England.

Joel's parents met in the late 1930s at City College of New York at a Gilbert and Sullivan performance. He has said that neither of his parents had talked much about World War II, which were such dark years; it was not until later that Joel learned more about his father's family. After Rosalind and Howard Joel divorced in 1957, Howard returned to Europe, as he had never liked the United States, considering the people uneducated and materialistic. He settled in Vienna, Austria, and later remarried. Joel has a half-brother, Alexander Joel, born to his father in Europe, who became a classical conductor there. Alexander Joel was the chief musical director of the Staatstheater Braunschweig from 2001 to 2014.

Billy Joel Facts

  • Joel signed a contract with the record company Family Productions, with which he recorded his first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor, a reference to Cold Spring Harbor, a hamlet on Long Island. Ripp states that he spent US$450,000 developing Joel; nevertheless, the album was mastered at too high a speed and as a result, the album was a technical and commercial disappointment.
  • The popular songs "She's Got a Way" and "Everybody Loves You Now" were originally released on this album, but went largely unnoticed until being released as live performances on Songs in the Attic (1981). Columbia released a remastered version of Cold Spring Harbor in 1983, with certain songs shortened or re-orchestrated.
  • During the spring of 1972, the Philadelphia radio station WMMR-FM began playing a concert recording of "Captain Jack", which became an underground hit on the East Coast. Herb Gordon, a Columbia Records executive, heard Joel's music and introduced him to the company. 
  • Joel signed a recording contract with Columbia in 1972 and moved to Los Angeles, California; he lived there for the next three years. For six months he worked at The Executive Room piano bar on Wilshire Boulevard as "Bill Martin". During that time, he composed his signature hit "Piano Man" about the bar's patrons.

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