Billy Joel

May 9, 1949

Billy Joel Artistfacts

  • When he was 21, after his band broke up and his girlfriend left him, he tried to kill himself by drinking furniture polish (he "took the Pledge"). He learned that furniture polish doesn't kill you, it just gets you really sick. After the incident, he checked himself into a hospital for depression, which he later said was a great experience, since he saw people who had far worse problems and learned to stop feeling sorry for himself.
  • In 1970, he released an album with Attila, a really bad heavy metal duo that promised to "destroy the world through amplification." (It actually said that in the liner notes of their album.)
  • In 2001, he sold his house in The Hamptons to Jerry Seinfeld for $32 million. Joel forgot to tell Seinfeld that it overlooked a nude beach.
  • His first solo album, Cold Spring Harbor, was recorded at the wrong speed. The vocals were too fast and made Joel's voice sound unnatural.
  • Joel's father was a pianist and met his mother when she was singing at the City College of New York in a Gilbert and Sullivan company.
  • In the mid-'90s, Joel was part of a series of protests on Long Island in New York. The state was going to ban haul-seining (the traditional method of catching striped bass). This would have put a lot of fisherman out of work. Joel said his interest was because it was an old tradition in his community. That's why he frequently risked arrest in support of the fishermen.
  • Joel married supermodel Christine Brinkley in 1985 and divorced her in 1994, supposedly because of Joel's busy road schedule. They met in 1982 when Joel was playing a hotel bar in the Caribbean.
  • Growing up in Hicksville, New York (on Long Island), Joel was a boxer for three years. He broke his nose, but was crowned Local Welterweight Champ of Hicksville in 1964.

    Joel's father left when Billy was 7 years old; he says he boxed to "settle my male identity crisis."
  • He toured several times with fellow pianist Elton John. They played together at the Concert for New York City, a benefit concert for the policemen and firefighters involved in the World Trade Center attacks in late 2001.
  • Many critics trashed him in the '70s. Joel used to tear up their reviews onstage.
  • In 1992, Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 1999, he made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Yankee Stadium's first rock concert featured Billy Joel on his 1989 Storm Front tour.
  • Joel has seen many legal battles over the years. He sued his ex-manager and ex-brother-in-law Frank Weber for fraud and misappropriation of funds. He also sued ex-lawyer Allen Grubman for fraud, malpractice, and breach of contract.
  • Joel has stated he is an atheist, although he believes he has reached some spiritual planes through music. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Amy - Chicago, IL
  • Joel was raised as a non-practicing Jew. As a boy, he would go with his Catholic friends to Sunday Mass. He said he was "busted" when he started giggling in a confessional booth. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Ken - Louisville, KY
  • He was the last artist to play Shea Stadium, which is where the New York Mets play. Joel will be the first artist in history to play all 4 of New York City's major sports venues: Shea, Yankee Stadium, Giants Stadium and Madison Square Garden. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • In 2003, he won a Tony Award for the orchestration of his Broadway musical Movin' Out. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • Joel was a rock critic in the early '70s for the magazines Changes and Go!. After giving Al Kooper's Super Session a bad review, he felt horrible and quit the gig. Many years later, he was asked to be a judge on American Idol, and turned down the gig because he didn't like to judge musicians. Steven Tyler filled the position.
  • As far as piano players go, Steve Winwood is his favorite. Joel says that Winwood plays all the right piano notes the same way Clapton does on guitar.
  • Billy Joel's first wife was his business manager, Elizabeth Weber Small, the former wife of his music partner, Jon Small (in the short-lived duo Attila). With his second wife, model and actress Christie Brinkley, he has a daughter, singer Alexa Ray Joel, whose middle name is after Ray Charles, one of Joel's musical idols.

    Joel married his third wife, 23-year-old Katie Lee, on October 2, 2004. At the time of the wedding, Joel was 55. The pair split after five years of marriage.

    Joel tied the knot with his fourth wife, Alexis Roderick, an equestrian and former Morgan Stanley executive, on July 4, 2015 during an unanticipated ceremony at his estate on Long Island. The couple, who had been together since 2009, surprised guests by getting married during their annual July 4th party.
  • Joel told The New York Times Magazine in 2013 that when he was in a financial crunch a few years previously, he sold a house he was building in the Hamptons to Jerry Seinfeld, and his New York City home to Sting. "I was praying for a rock star," Joel said of the latter property. "They don't care what their accountant says. If they want something, they buy it."
  • Joel hates seeing himself on album covers, but his label liked his image there since it was good for marketing. For the photo shoot for his 1982 album The Nylon Curtain, Billy showed up with an actual curtain that he used to obscure himself in the pictures. Rather than use the Billy-under-a-curtain images, they commissioned an illustration instead. Joel's compromise was a photo of himself reading a paper on the back cover.
  • Drummer Liberty DeVitto logged the most years in Joel's band, joining in 1976 and staying on until about 2003. In our interview with DeVitto, he explained that when they would make an album, Joel would have just a few songs hashed out, but came with lots of ideas. "On the first day, we'd run over the songs that he had - the two or three songs," he said. "And then he would play ideas, and the band would play along with the ideas, and if the ideas started to feel good, he would go home and complete the song. Finish writing it. And then the next day, he would come in and we would record it."
  • Billy Joel told Long Island's BEACH magazine that pasta is his favorite food and that if it was his last meal, he'd eat a "pile" of it.
  • He tried writing an autobiography, but the publisher wanted more salacious details than Joel could or would provide, so he have back his advance and scrapped the project.

Comments: 25

  • Kim Pierson from Vashon IslandAs a teenager I somehow found myself with a ticket to a Billy Joel concert. And although I wasn't expecting it, he gave the one of the best live shows I have ever seen. All respect to a great songwriter and a passionate performer.
  • Kevin Okeefe from Fort Lauderdale Florida Billy is a total musical genius!! An outstanding piano player and great lyricist. Writes and plays straight from the heart. He’s had a tough time with women so I wish him a future full of true love and sincere happiness. “And so it goes and so it goes, and you’re the only one who knows...”. ~K.
  • Daisy B from Alexandria, VaI have a recording of Scenes from an Italian restaurant adapted to the Puerto Rican social scene by Glenn Monroig. I can’t find any information about this translation but it’s Billy Joel’s song. I love both versions of the song. Any feedback is welcome.
  • Helene from Hampton BaysTwo of the comments below are incorrect. His mom was indeed Jewish - Rosalind Nyman - her family was originally from Poland and he did not have a daughter from his first marriage. His first wife had a son from her previous marriage. His only child is from his marriage with Christie Brinkley - just read his autobiography!
  • Peter from Coventry, United KingdomIs Billy Joel still in love with an uptown girl?
  • Barry from New York, NcThe Hassles made two great albums before they split up. They even made an interesting early pre-MTV music video for the song I HEAR VOICES. You can view the video on YouTube!!
  • Bob from Syosset, Long Island, Ar1970 I lived across the hall from Jon Small and Elizabeth and Billy would come and sing on the apartment steps. Bottle of wine and lots of singing. John Dizek and Jon were in a band then. I'm really looking for Brian Ruggles. Anyone know of his where abouts?
  • Janeyce from Austin, MnActually, on Christie Brinkley's website it said thast she left Billy Joel for another guy. That this must be true, since she was hitched later that same year as the divorce.
  • Greg from Queens, NyAfter years of trying to figure it, i got it out of her. The Song "She's Always A Woman" Was About my mom, who went out with him for a while. she was born and raised in oyster bay Ny
  • Ken from Louisville, KyFor the past 15 or so years, Joel has toured college campuses and performing halls to answer questions from audience members about his songs, career and the music business. He would appear solo with just his piano and sing parts of his (and sometimes other people's) songs to illustrate his points. He has been praised for his openess, intelligence and humor during these events, and has been quoted as saying other intelligent and witty rock/pop stars, such as Don Henley, would be naturals at doing the same thing.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyIn his early days, Joel would end his concerts with the line "Don't take no s*it from nobody" (sic). He would also do profane rants against music critics. He dropped both as he got older.
  • Steve from Mchenry, IlI grew up in Flushing NY. There use to be a club off of Main Street called "The 17 Steps" where I first met Billy. This was around the Atilla days. As an ex Golden Gloves, Billy was not one to mess with. I remember once when Billy tapped a guy on the shoulder, as he turned, Billy clocked him... Good Night! I hadn't remember that story till a previous friend reminded me. Then it dawned on me.. That was Billy Joel. True Rags to Riches.
  • Rich from Stevensville, MdHe dated Trish Bergen - the sub for Deborah Norville on "Inside Edition" back in 1999-2001 when she was a local reporter on "News 12 Long Island".
  • Leyna from SpI love Rolling Home, by Attila! Nothing wrong with it at all!
  • Barry from New York, NyATTILA is a very underrated album. Most people have never listened to it before, but have heard that it's a heavy metal album. That is 100% untrue. There are some tracks that are heavy rock, but for the most part the songs are regular rock songs featuring organ and drums. The song "Amplifer Fire" is very jazzy and fun to listen to. By the way Attila only played a handful of gigs, most prominently a residency at Village Gate in NYC during August 1970. They performed with a band called Jam Factory (featuring Joe English on drums, who soon would join Paul McCartney & Wings). During a visit to Fillmore East in October 1970, Billy Joel and Jon Small took in Lee Michael's show which also featured drums and organ. This is when the decision was made to dissolve Attila.
  • Leyna from SpWait, let me rephrase that, he had a stepson.
  • Leyna from SpBilly doesn't have a child from his first marriage. He only had Alexa, from his second.
  • Anthony from Greenwich, NyI went to school in Hicksville and have seen his house, he lived in a "Levit" style house. In the Hicksville Middle School his intials are carved into the piano rooms closet. He also has a plaque in the Hicksville High School Hall of fame in the lobby, among those who lost their lives in 9-11
  • Brittany from Rivers, CanadaI know everything about Billy Joel but I didn't know that he had a kid with Elizabeth. Jeepers!
  • Vinnie from Reno, NvAfter Billy's first solo album, "Cold Spring Harbor"(1971), critics and newsmedia actually accused him of "imitating" none other than Elton John. He said he wasn't intentionally trying to imitate Elton John, it was just that he was so musically influenced by him,... that it came across that way to some. On Thanksgiving night of 1981, I got a chance to meet & speak with Billy for the first time, at his soundman's (Brian Ruggles) club, called "Sparks", up on Long Island's north shore in Huntington. I advised him at that time that I was playing piano & singing professionally(Solo) on Long Island for the past year, and it had bothered me very much that many people in my audiences were saying and whispering that I sounded like Billy Joel, and that I was trying to imitate him. I told Billy that I was clearly not trying to intentionally "imitate" him. And to this, Billy was nice enough to take not only his time, but also his wisdom & experience to inform me about his above-mentioned time with the critics & newsmedia after the release of "Cold Spring Harbor". He told me to just sing on,...that I was just as influeced by him, as he was of Elton John, and that I would eventually develop my own style. And after he took the time to relate that to me, it never bothered me anymore if I heard someone say that I was trying to sound like him, because Joel was right on with his wisdom. I'm presently in my 25th year of solo performing, and many of my following who have been with me for all these years, have continually advised me how I have indeed developed my own style. Thank you Mr. William Martin Joel. You didn't have to spend the time to give me that very valuable advice outside on the front porch of "Sparks" on that Thanksgiving evening. But you chose to do so. You will forever be my #1 musical idol. As Carly Simon used to sing, "Nobody Does It Better"!!!... I wrote a Tribute song for Billy in 1992. I call it "Little Big Man".
  • Lazer from Buffalo, NyJoel's father is Jewish (his mother is not) and a holocaust survivor. He raised Billy without any jewish identity to protect him from anti-semitism.
  • David from Lansing, MiAccording to the All Music Guide, Billy Joel played piano on the Shangri-La's song "Leader Of The Pack". He was sixteen at the time.
  • Dave from Edmonton, Canadain 2004, at 55 year old, Billy Joel, married his 22 year old girlfriend, Katie Lee. His 18 year old daugher will be a Maid of Honor.
  • Ronda from Commack, NyDaughter, Alexa Ray, is from his second marriage.
  • Brooke from Sedona, AzJoel also has a daughter from his first marriage.
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