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Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel

Album: The StrangerReleased: 1977Charted:
3
19
  • Joel wrote this song about his first wife, Elizabeth. A pure expression of unconditional love, he gave it to her as a birthday present.

    Sadly, after nine years of marriage, Joel and Elizabeth divorced in 1982. Joel's next two marriages didn't work out either: he was married to Christie Brinkley from 1985-1994, and to Katie Lee from 2004-2010.

    "Every time I wrote a song for a person I was in a relationship with, it didn't last," Joel said. "It was kind of like the curse. Here's your song - we might as well say goodbye now."
  • This won Grammys for Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year in 1978. It was a breakthrough for Joel, whose biggest hit to this point was "Piano Man," which reached #25 in the US.

    Joel told USA Today July 9, 2008: "I was absolutely surprised it won a Grammy. It wasn't even rock 'n' roll, it was like a standard with a little bit of R&B in it. It reminded me of an old Stevie Wonder recording." (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
  • After Joel recorded this, he didn't think much of it, considering it a "gloppy ballad" that would only get played at weddings. He credits his producer, Phil Ramone, with convincing him that it was a great song. Ramone brought Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow into the recording studio to hear the song, and of course they loved it, which was good enough for Billy. On Australian TV in 2006, Joel confirmed: "We almost didn't put it on an album. We were sitting around listening to it going naaah, that's a chick song."
  • Phil Woods, who is a prominent Jazz player, played the alto saxophone for this song. (thanks, Alex - Grand Blanc, MI)
  • Barry White's cover version hit #12 in the UK in 1978. The song was also covered by Frank Sinatra and Isaac Hayes, whose version is in 6/8 time with a long introductory rap.
  • Joel performed this on Saturday Night Live in 1977, 3 months before it was released.
  • This was the first single off The Stranger, which was Billy Joel's sixth album.
  • On a July 16, 2006 blog for the Australian newspaper The Herald Sun, Joel said that he dreamt the melody and chord progression and wrote the lyrics over a few days after the dream recurred. He added that the drum pattern was suggested by his producer at the time, Phil Ramone.
  • Joel expanded to USA Today: "I dreamt the melody, not the words. I remember waking up in the middle of the night and going, 'This is a great idea for a song.' A couple of weeks later, I'm in a business meeting, and the dream reoccurs to me right at that moment because my mind had drifted off from hearing numbers and legal jargon. And I said, 'I have to go!' I got home and I ended up writing it all in one sitting, pretty much. It took me maybe two or three hours to write the lyrics."
  • This was Joel's first chart entry in the UK.
  • In his 2014 appearance on a Howard Stern town hall special, Joel explained that the original sheet music printed for this song was wrong, with an extra chord in the intro. He says that he often hears people playing it the wrong way, and has even corrected some of them when he hears it.
  • Paul McCartney has delivered high praise for this song, stating in his Club Sandwich newsletter that it's one of the few songs he wished he had written ("Stardust" is his first selection).
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Comments: 28

OOPS!!!!
Concerning my post below I forgot to include three facts:
It entered the Top 100 at position #89...
It stayed at #3 for two weeks...
And for 8 of the 27 weeks on the Top 100 is was on the Top 10...
(I'm 69 years old, and will have to double check my future info before I post).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On February 12th, 1978, "Just The Way You Are" by Billy Joel peaked at #3 (for weeks) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on November 6th and spent over a half-year on the Top 100 (27 weeks)...
And on January 1st, 1979 it reached #1 (for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks and peaked at #2 on the Canadian RPM Singles chart...
Was track three of side one from his fifth studio album, 'The Stranger', and the album peaked #2 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
Three other tracks from the album also made the Top 100; "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" (#17), "Only The Good Die Young" (#24), and "She's Always A Woman" (#17)...
In three months Mr. Joel will be eligible for Medicare; he will celebrate his 65th birthday on May 9th (2014).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I heard last night that Phil Woods only got $500 for laying down that solo, with no royalties. It's 'funny' how the music/recording business works.Jon - San Bernardino, Ca
Well, Billy was right.
It IS a chick song, but so what?
It is also a guy song, considering it speaks for legions of men who desperately wish that the woman we fall in love with will not feel the nearly inexorable female impulse to purposefully change.
And I am not talking about aging, either, which is normal and expected.
Phil Woods turns in one incredible bit of gentle sax work on this, too.
I saw an interview with Billy Joel fairly recently, and he said that he refuses to perform this live anymore.
I suppose it would get easy to grow tired of a song after so many times, but it is really a pity.
Does anyone honestly believe that Eric Clapton would ever refuse to perform "Layla" out of irritation?
Oldpink - New Castle, In
During his 2001 tour Syracuse performance Joel substituted "I couldn't love you any longer" for "any better" towards the end of the song.Daniel - Binghamton, Ny
Drummer Liberty DeVito always sang along with Joel during concerts. This was done, partly, to help Joel in case he forgot the words. Following Joel's divorce in the early 80's, to tease Joel, during the line "I love you just the way you are", DeVito sang "She got the house, she got the car". Since his voice wasn't miked, only Joel could hear that.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Sweet song.On of the most perfect songs you could dedicate to a lover.Michaela - Brooklyn, Ny
The tradition in the 70's was to let the artist pick the first single off of their albums. CBS pleaded wiith Joel to make this the first single, but he refused, selecting "Movin' Out" instead. CBS then released this as a single. It was held back from being #1 by the Gerry Raferty's massive hit "Baker Street", which was #1 for many weeks during the same period.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Actually, it's the first song in the "Shrek in the Swamp Kareoke Party" on the Shrek DVD. But, yes, Shrek does sing the song (or, rather, the first two lines - "Don't go changing to try to please me, you've never let me down before...")Matthew - Milford, Ma
I can't believe nobody has posted that in the movie, "Shrek", the titled character sings this to Fiona at their wedding reception. Considering that she changes from human to ogre when the sun goes down and she remains an ogre for him, I thought this song was perfect.Lalah - Wasilla, Ak
Great song....I guess Joel doesn't want to rehash memories he gets from playing it. The song makes me think too...Mike - Hueytown , Al
The saxophone player, Phil Woods, had a great performance in this song. And it's one of the greatest sax solos of those great songs. Diana Krall's version is great too, but Michael Brecker's performance there was not as good and fluent as Phil Woods'.Lucas - Beijing, China
To Michael from Houston, the reason why the lyrics seem different is because many compilations and even his greatest hits album edited the song. The sad part is those words that are edited out are beautiful too! You can hear this song in its entirety on The Stranger album and also some people who have covered this song (Barry White and Diana Krall come to mind) sing it in its entiretyAlan - Singapore, Singapore
I heard a rumor that after hearing this song (or it might have been "She's always a woman"), Christie Brinkley called the radio station (somewhere on Long Island I think) to complain they shouldn't play that song because it was about his first wife. Anyone else heard this?Sean - Brockton, Ma
This was my parent's wedding song. They had a close friend come in and play guitar and sing it live... in the church! Pretty brave to do this at a Catholic church in 77, especially with "Only The Good Die Young" coming out at the same time. My mother's grandmother said she remembered this song many years later and still loved it, so it means a lot to me.Mike - Worcester, Ma
Everyone seemed to think this song was sappy and wimpy.Leyna - Sp
Criticsm of Billy Joel in the press was just starting to take hold during his first period of superstardom in 1977. There was actually critical backlash following the release of the JUST THE WAY YOU ARE single. Some of the criticism focused on possible chauvinstic lyrics, probably the ones about "clever conversation." Billy snapped back and said it was just about telling his woman "not to change."Barry - New York, Ny
This was most certainly NOT the first single off of "The Stranger." 'Movin' Out' was all over the radio before most people knew who Billy Joel was.

I do remember watching him perform this on Saturday Night Live. He also did "Only the Good Die Young," which shocked my little Catholic heart at the time. It was a pretty ballsy song for the '70's.
Dennis - Anchorage, Ak
This is one of Joel's least favorite songs to play. He wrote it for his 1st wife, but the marraige didn't last.
Still a great hit.
Chris - Portland, Ct
The title of this song was inspired by Billy's mum. Apparently when he was in school as a child he would get picked on for being small. When he told his mother about it she said 'I love you just the way you are' I read this in a book called 'Chicken Soup For The Soul #1 great story if you ever get a chance to get your hands on the book.Am - Liverpool
All drama side...it's actually a very song about a mans adoration of his woman, The reasons he loves her and the unnecessary involvements to perfections...(She's perfect the way she is). It's shameful that people have to disect such a beautiful song to a point of losing it's intimacy.Scott - Columbus, Oh
This song features the Fender Rhodes piano, which originally was a funky jazz instrument (check out Chick Correa's work with it) but by the mid seventies, it became the hallmark of a lot of sappy ballads. Actually I do like Billy Joel's usage of the Fender Rhodes in this song, but it might have paved the way for the abuse of this electric keyboard in the mid 70s-early 80s.Barry - New York, Nc
at about 2:55 to 2:56 in the song you hear this snapping sound. can anyone explain it? Also why are the lyrics different written down differently than sung in the song?Michael - Houston, Tx
Billy Joel will not perform this song in concert anymore, excect, at times, on his college "lecture" tour, where he'll do a parody version, at a faster tempo, such as a lounge singer might do it.Ken - Louisville, Ky
Just The Way You Are hold the unique title of being the only song to be edited out of retail available media productions of UK comedy series Ony Fools and Horses-TWICE!

Obviously Mr Joel likes his royalties!!!
Stuart - Essex, England
of all the songs he performs live , this is the one he's sick and tired of singingPete - Nowra, Australia
This was Joel's breakthrough hit, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Top 40. It was only the beginning, as he would have a steady string of Top 40 hits from his albums over the next 15 years, with each album yielding at least a Top 10 single.Kei - Salem, Or
Billy didn't think this song came out sounding like the way he first wrote it. He later referred to it as "Phil Ramone's bossa nova" version of the song.Dc - Hilo, Hi