Video of the Week: The Top 5 Billy Joel Songs, Ranked By Billy Joel

Billy Joel’s 5 Stages of Grief

by Kevin McElvaney

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.

Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced these Five Stages of Grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. And though the theory was never fully embraced by the scientific community, it did take hold in the popular imagination. In the nearly five decades since its conception, the Kübler-Ross model has been applied not just to death, but to loss of all kinds — ultimately becoming a familiar trope in countless movies and TV shows.

Contrary to popular belief, the author herself never claimed that these five stages happen to everyone, nor that each person experiences them in a predictable order. Still, there’s something comforting about the notion that loss can be overcome, if only we’re patient enough to wait for that elusive fifth step.

At the risk of further watering down an already misunderstood concept, here again are the Five Stages of Grief: this time, told through the songs of the “Piano Man” himself, Mr. Billy Joel…

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Video of the Week: Billy Joel Explains the Role of a Good ‘Vowel Movement’ in Lyric Writing

Big Shot: The night I almost became Billy Joel’s uptown girl


(via purple clover)

by Debbie Kasper

I was never a big Billy Joel fan but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t have married him when I had the shot. Yes, that could have been MY LIFE. I could have been Mrs. Billy Joel, the uptown girl, living in an uptown world. If only.

It was the early Eighties, and I was a waitress at a nouveau-hot restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Early one Saturday night, a limo pulled up out front. Out stumbled two guys who looked like trouble. I was drawn. I’ve always enjoyed a nice batch of trouble.

I watched from my station on the balcony as the limo riders were led up the stairs to my empty section. The short one was disruptive, singing to the Billy Joel tape that was playing throughout the restaurant. He began waving from the steps like an emperor, claiming, “Hi, I’m Billy Joel! I’m Billy Joel!”

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Songs You May Have Missed #576


Billy Joel: “Running on Ice” (1986)

Budding songwriters and fledgling lyricists, look on the work of William Martin Joel and despair.

The average Billy Joel composition is a compact master class in lyric writing. This guy just gets so many things right, most of which escape a typical listener as he hums “Just the Way You Are”, or rocks out to “Big Shot”, or sings along with any number of dozens of Joel’s classic entries in our collective cultural hymnal.

By the way, I’ve long held the opinion Billy Joel was the best pop lyricist of his era. And I’m pretty sure “Only the Good Die Young” is the best pop rock lyric of the past 40 years. But since everyone knows that song and dozens of other pop masterpieces in Joel’s oeuvre, the focus of this particular series of posts forces me to delve into what passes for “deep cut” territory to talk about the man’s talents.

A deep cut this may be, but certainly not of lesser quality than the singles chosen from 1986’s The Bridge album. “Modern Woman”, “This is the Time” and “A Matter of Trust” are fine songs–but the twitchy lyrical joyride that is “Running on Ice” would itself have made a great single.

One thing about Joel’s writing that has always stood out to me is that he never seems content to simply observe pop music norm in repeating a chorus; Joel raises his game by varying the lyric with each. Frequently you could even say he customizes each chorus to suit its accompanying verse.

The first chorus here begins with “Sometimes I feel as though I’m running on ice…” which not only sums up what came before in verse one, but makes a good introduction, so to speak, to the song’s hook line and concept.

When the second chorus rolls around, preceded as it is by the flood of multisyllabic elocution that it verse two, it almost serves as a punchline when he says “And all that means is that I’m running on ice…” Brilliant.

The song is lavishly littered with alliteration, assonance and internal rhyme. What’s more, since the same torrent of verbiage that makes this a great lyric also tends to make it a bit of a challenge to sing along to, Joel supplies a well-placed bridge (You’ve got to run…) to momentarily relieve the tension and give the listener something to belt out. Genius.

This is no typical song. It’s a great one. Though that makes it a typical Billy Joel song.

There’s a lot of tension in this town
I know it’s building up inside of me
I’ve got all the symptoms and the side effects
Of city life anxiety

I could never understand why the urban attitude
Is so superior
In a world of high rise ambition
Most people’s motives are ulterior

Sometimes I feel as though I’m running on ice
Paying the price too long
Kind of get the feeling that I’m running on ice
Where did my life go wrong

I’m a cosmopolitan sophisticate
Of culture and intelligence
The culmination of technology
And civilized experience

But I’m carrying the weight of all the useless junk
A modern man accumulates
I’m a statistic in a system
That a civil servant dominates

And all that means is that I’m running on ice
Caught in the vise so strong
I’m slipping and sliding, cause I’m running on ice
Where did my life go wrong

You’ve got to run
You’ve got to run

As fast as I can climb
A new disaster every time I turn around
As soon as I get one fire put out
There’s another building burning down

They say this highway’s going my way
But I don’t know where it’s taking me
It’s a bad waste, a sad case, a rat race
It’s breaking me

I get no traction cause I’m running on ice
It’s taking me twice as long
I get a bad reaction cause I’m running on ice
Where did my life go wrong

You’ve got to run
You’ve got to run

Running on ice
Running on ice
Running on ice
Running on ice

“I Love Having Written, But I Hate Writing”–Billy Joel says “Go Ahead With Your Own Life, Leave Me Alone” to Critics, Columbia Records and Sir Elton

joel 1

(via New York Times Magazine)

Billy Joel hasn’t put out an album of new songs in decades, but the last few years have brought about a burnishing of his musical legacy. Most recently, he stole the show at the 12-12-12 Sandy relief concert, no trifling feat considering he shared the stage with the Who, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. His set, characterized by remarkably robust vocals and a tight backing band, allowed songs like “Only the Good Die Young” and “You May Be Right” to be considered anew; the passage of time has cleansed the songs of any of the annoyance-factor wrought by FM overplay. A generation who never appreciated him, who judged him uncool, are now at the age at which they might actually suffer one of those heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-acks of “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” Even the haters, grown up now, would have a hard time continuing to begrudge Joel his mastery of songwriting…

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