Songfacts®: You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.
There really was an outlaw called Billy The Kid, but he wasn't from West Virginia, he didn't rob banks and he wasn't hanged. Joel explained in 1975 to ZigZag: "Basically it was an experiment with an impressionist type of lyric. It was historically totally inaccurate as a story, it wasn't supposed to be listened to as a story. I like writing more soundtrack type things, and I wanted to try something musical. I wrote that song all in one day – it was kind of a spoof on the rock-star type of thing."
Joel paid special attention to the arrangement on this song, which helped it capture the Old West vibe. Said Joel: "I wanted it to sound like The Magnificent Seven. Jimmie Haskell wrote it and conducted the string section, but I told him what I wanted. I worked pretty closely with the arrangements on the Cold Spring Harbour album. It was too much on that."
A popular contemporary folk singer, Williams still remembers the sticky note that changed her life in college.
Mike Watt - "History Lesson, Pt. 2"
Mike Watt of the Minutemen tells the story of the song that became an Indie Rock touchstone. It's also the story of what Mike calls "The Movement."