She's Always A Woman

Album: The Stranger (1977)
Charted: 29 17
  • Billy Joel wrote this song about his first wife, Elizabeth, whom he was married to from 1973-1982. When they first got together, she was still married to Joel's drummer Jon Small. Billy was so tormented by his affair that he made a halfhearted attempt to kill himself by drinking furniture polish. Ironically, the rocker was saved by the very man he was betraying when Jon Small rushed him to hospital.
  • Joel's then-wife Elizabeth was also his manager and worked in the music industry at a time when very few women did. Billy saw her take a lot of gruff in the working world and get called a lot of names, which led to him writing this song to defend her, in a way. He explained: "If you look at the structure of the song, it says, 'she can do this to you, she can do that to you, but she's always a woman to me.' That was the point of the song: they're bitching about her, and I'm saying, you can bitch all you want, she's great at business and she comes home and she's a woman with me."
  • This was a staple of Billy Joel's concerts in the late '70s, but when his marriage fell apart, he dropped it from the setlist, playing it only sporadically from 1980-2005. On one of his college tour shows, Billy said that it was about his first wife, who he didn't really want to be singing about in the first place. He explained that while he was singing it, he would start thinking about what meal he would eat after the show. No passion whatsoever, so he dropped it.

    In 2006, Joel returned the song to his live repertoire, often deadpanning at the end: "and then we got divorced."
  • Joel told USA Today July 9, 2008: "Some people said, 'Oh, he's a misogynist, look what he says about this woman. He wrote this song called She's Only a Woman.' Which always cracks me up every time I read that. To me, it's a very simple understandable lyric. 'She may be that to you, but she's this to me.'"
  • Fyfe Dangerfield, the frontman of the British band Guillemots, recorded a version of this song in 2010 which was used in an advertisement for the British department store John Lewis.

    This version was released as a single in the UK, reaching the Top 10. It was the third Billy Joel song to become a Top 40 hit for another act in Britain, following Barry White's version of "Just the Way You Are," which hit #12 in January 1979 and Westlife's rendition of "Uptown Girl" went all the way to #1 in March 2001.
  • Joel's version also returned to the UK singles charts in 2010, this time peaking at #29 (it previously reached #53). Joel told The Sun June 11, 2010: "It was totally unexpected, this was the first time I've ever licensed any commercial use for my music but it turned out to be a blessing as it's given me a new audience. I grew up seeing the negative side of commercials, so I thought, 'Am I selling out and ruining this song?' But it was a pleasant surprise and I've been in touch with Fyfe Dangerfield about it. I've been tuning into his music recently and he's good. And he stays pretty true to the original recording- on fact I think it's a better version than mine."
  • When the American singer-songwriter Pink married motocross racer Carey Hart in Costa Rica, she walked down the aisle barefoot accompanied by this song.

    She was always a huge Billy Joel fan, and she got the chance to perform this song with her idol in 2014 at a Billy Joel town hall event hosted by Howard Stern. "I got to see my dad become happy when your songs came on, and we sang them together," she told him. "It's changed my life. When I sit down to write a song, my first thought is, 'this is going to suck, and I'm never going to be Billy Joel.'"

    Regarding this song, Pink said, "I wanted it to be about me."
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Comments: 46

  • Melinda from AustraliaAgree with a lot of the comments here. How the chick sounds like she has narcissistic personality disorder. Or is a Sociopath. Sociopaths and psychopaths are quite common in community. People tend to think they are rare. No they are not.
    Regarding this beautiful song, Billy Joel has stated that this song was written about his 1st wife Elizabeth Weber. He has since described her and her brother Frank, as the Bogias. (The medieval Italian family of extremely ruthless financial tycoons)
    Elizabeth Weber was a tough arrogant outspoken manipulative gold digger. Billy Joel didn’t know this at the time because he was young. This was around 1973.
    Unfortunately she became his wife and manager.
    His relationship with her caused him to attempt suicide at least twice.
    He wrote this song Always A Woman, and a year later played it to her on her birthday. He asked her if she liked it,
    And as a typical money grabbing sociopath that she was,.... she replied,
    ‘Yes, But do I get publishing rights too?’
    ..unfortunately Billy Joel agreed yes.

    She brought her equally money hungry ruthless brother Frank in on deals so he could siphon off money too.
    And they made so much money from exploiting Billy Joel. When his singing career was on fire.
    Elizabeth Weber and Billy Joel split at some stage. And to win her back he offered to buy her an Upper Eastside apartment and an new Alpha Romeo car.
    That wasn’t enough for this narcissist.
    Before he was able to give her these further monetary gifts. He was in a serious motorcycle accident. Ended up in hospital doped and medicated, really high.
    So, in typical sociopathic style, Elizabeth Weber turned up at his bedside with a contract in her hands.
    Trying to get him to sign over all of his rights to her. That was the final straw for Billy Joel.
    He divorced her. Finally came to his senses.
    He eventually discovered her and her brother Frank ultimately siphoned 60 million of his money.
    He sued later. But her brother Frank was able to avoid re-paying it by declaring bankruptcy.
    What a devious dangerous horrible woman Elizabeth Weber was.
    Yes men...beware of women with sociopath attributes. Learn what they are. Cause you will barely survive any kind of relationship with them. No one does.
    What puzzles me is, Elizabeth Weber wasn’t even beautiful. Seems most people get spellbound by beautiful sociopaths. Male or female.
    Billy Joel’s song ‘Just The Way You Are’ is also about Elizabeth Weber. Clearly he wrote these songs when he was deeply in love with her, beguiled and totally unaware of her ultimate intentions. And deluded.
    He claimed he was impressed by her intelligence. Mmm. Business savvy more like.
    His song The Stranger, is also about Elizabeth Weber.
  • Peter from EnglandI get all the comments you guys made , and I appreciate why Billy Joel wrote it , but .....the song actually nails the love of my life ( apart from the thief bit ! ) and her behaviour - which she was hugely big on with me. Then I did a little research and it turns out that it’s my belief she had/has BPD - borderline personality disorder, check out Joanne Nicola’s site for clues to the traits, it’s a great help and Joanne replies to e mails with pertinent questions. It can be helped, but in my case, my love would never see a doctor for anything, I believe she was frightened she would be diagnosed and lose her kids. No that’s not rational, neither is the disorder. Don’t blame yourselves guys, it’s not her fault either, just try to find a gentle way or move on ... forever.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaNick, she'll carelessly cut you and laugh while you're bleeding> I know that feeling. Felt it as a teenager who was not a popular girl, from some of the better looking ones. They thought that cutting a person apart emotionally was REAL FUN. So this can refer to other aspects besides marriage.
  • Trudy from UsaClassic description of narcissistic personality disorder. I have a friend who is EXACTLY like this. And, no, NOT all women are like this. In fact, as a female, if I ever become like the characteristics that Billy Joel has written about in this song, then I should hope someone would put me out of my misery.
  • John Higgins from SeattleI started thinking about this song the other day and it struck me that Billy's description of this woman is very similar to most of the women I have known. I know he was thinking about one woman in particular when he wrote this song, but he just as easily could have written it about the whole lot. As they say: When you date one woman - you just dated them all. I know women hate to hear that, but it's true 99.9% of the time. This is to say that only one woman in a thousand has what it takes to break free from the mold.

    Know it or not, this song is an indictment against the nature of women...not women with bi-polar, narcissistic, or borderline personality disorders - just women in general (who carry most, all, or more of these destructive traits). If you get into a relationship with the modern woman, you may as well blame yourself, because she is only a woman...you see.
  • Cie from Seattle, Wa...I've learned that the behavior of a woman who is like Joel's song describes can be just as destructive as the behavior of certain men to which I refer. Lying, stealing, being cruel and so forth are called moral when a Cause is being fought for in War: but WHEN will the war end? War between the sexes is much like class warfare and racism. Only when all people treat each other with love in all situations will the hatred- and fear-controlled abusers evolve or be disempowered, and maybe even soften their hearts before they ruin their own lives, also. Refrigerator magnet saying: "BE KIND. NO EXCEPTIONS." Excruciatingly difficult at times, but still possible. Nonetheless, Billy Joel and the woman in this song sing to my soul till this day, as a type of hero and heroine against the abusive world's ways of disrespecting women.
  • Cie from Seattle, WaMisogynists particularly vent their fury on women who are emotionally and financially independent and free of their attempts to use them sexually and abuse them. (Why are you getting so angry as you read this, if you are not one of these?) Billy Joel's song struck me in a delightful way as a teenager who was very naive because he seemed to be a unique man who did not seek to punish this woman for being able to avoid such men's abuse and for having a type of personal power. As an adult who has experienced firsthand the anguish that selfish women as well as selfish men can inflict, in my later years, -to be continued-
  • Cie from Seattle, WaI first heard this song as a young teenage girl and loved the fact that Billy Joel's "woman," or love, could express scornful disdain for the men of the world who approached her with lust and disrespect, and have his full backing, loyalty and affection. The word "misogynist" existed from an early time because so many men do hate and disrespect women; our language needed a word for such men because they are so common in our modern culture. Many of the comments here seem to reveal a cluenessness regarding female perspective in a world full of exploiting, using, even vicious men. -to be continued-
  • Marie from Salem, OrI think you are wrong when you say it's about a Passive Aggressive person. I believe it's a beautiful love song about two people who couldn't live together, but he still loves her. You are overlooking the other more meaningful, words he is saying. Maybe she was afraid of being hurt and protected herself, from hurt, by being overprotective of her heart. For fear of losing again. But he still loved her despite it. It's plain to see he loved her. I think you are reading too much into a beautiful love song. Just because you, had that experience don't mean, this song is about that. He says in the song" She hides like a child, bur she's always a woman to me" in my mind means she is afraid of being hurt again but he loves her because he sees the stronger, loving, side of her. That don't mean she is Passive Aggressive. Come on, it's just a love song. Simple.
  • Jason from Cumming, GaI had a girlfriend with Borderline Personality Disorder and this song is her to a T. Every line relates to BPD. She actually did cut me once, she lied often to cover her mistakes, she stole often. She never believed me, though i was always honest and never messed around. She did. She was beautiful, charming and could always get what she wanted. BPD affects more women and seems to be caused by early sexual abuse and a genetic sensitive predisposition. At the core of bpd is lack of trust and an intense fear of abandonment. Bad interpersonal relationships leave a path of ruined marriages and relationships. It can be so bad that some have said they seem to be possessed. I still love her and know that if she had a choice she would not be that way. It is not a choice they make and is very hard to cure. Good luck to anyone in a relationship with someone like this. Look into cognitive behavioral therapy and online I found Dr. Leland Hellars info on medication for bpd to be great, but too late for us. Maybe you can be one of the few to save it. Not like me and Billy. Beaten and scarred by a relationship with someone we loved but couldnt save from themselves. Be careful as it may drag you down, also
  • Toast from Seal Beach, CaThe song is ironic how the piano is passive and he sings in a very passive way, ALL about a woman with (PAPD) passive aggressive personality disorder. I am saddened by some comments that some people like these traits in women described by Billy. I had the worst marriage to a Passive Aggressive woman, I am still bleeding from the pain of her actions and the brutal custody battle -- and to the day she is still "laughing while I am bleeding". The pain and symptoms of this personality disorder are heart ripping, and we can empathize and sense the pain Billy felt as well with this woman.

    please read my comment below........
  • Toast from Seal Beach, Ca At the pond and puddle level, yes Narcissistic... BUT going much deeper, on the lake and ocean level the women described above is definitely a PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE (crazymaker) woman.
    go ahead..Wikipedia "PA (Passive Aggressive)" .. I will wait....
    the premises are ALL there in this song if you do the research. My mom, little sister, ex wife, ex mother in law, and many women i have met are passive aggressive women. They are all narcissistic as well. Ask Billy, he would agree with me.
    I am writing an autobiography book that will educate people (thru my horrible experiences with PA people in Utah and the west coast) about passive aggressive women and men.. facebook and friend me- "Sunday Mormon"
    side nore FYI... (yes, FACT: their prophets Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were extremely Passive Aggressive!! sorry LDS friends, its true, Mitt Romney (seeing his aggressiveness suddenly appear when exposing his Cult religion..) am afraid he might be PA, too.

    premises of PA in this song:
    "She's frequently kind, and she's suddenly cruel." ---> Passive.. Aggressive (usually in private to you).
    "She cant be convicted, she's earned her degree." ---> PA people are never accountable for their actions.
    "She never gives in, just changes her mind" ----> PA people have no humility and convenient forgetfullness is a common game they play to drive people crazy.
    ... and many more...
    PEOPLE please study up on passive aggressivene personality disorder!!! Most of all marriages end from one of the spouses being passive aggressive. We need to stop this, and educate and help people become honest and direct Assertive people that play no more mind games, but instead practice empathy and Christlike love.
    Also, before two people marry, research Passive Aggressive zealously and benevolently together, increase your chances for a successful marriage!!

    peace.. the toast
  • Cindy from Cape Town, South AfricaThe true history behind this song will explain the meaning. Billy Joel was on the verge of financial ruin when his wife stepped in and sorted out his finances. In doing this she had to be a stern businesswoman and show a very "hard" side to the people she was dealing with. Despite the way they saw her, Joel still saw the softer side, therefore "she's always a woman" to him. So it is not meant to knock her personality; its a beautiful love song in which he says that despite all these "flaws" that other people see, he sees a side that nobody else knows. I guess it can very easily be interpreted as a song about a narcissist but thats not the intention with which it was written.
  • Gofast from Boynton, FlAnyone who has ever been in a relationship with a narcissist will have a clear understanding of this song. I don't know if the song is about a female business associate that he admires or a woman that he is in a codependent relationship. But narcissist are among the most evil members of our society. I would recommend everyone, especially women*, read the wikipedia articles on, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Narcissistic Injury, and Narcissistic Rage.

    If you ever find yourself in a relationship with a narcissist, run..., run like hell, do whatever it takes to get out of the relationship and away from the narcissist. You risk emotional (and physical) injuries that last a lifetime.

    * I emphasize women because the majority of narcissist are men, and women often have fewer options to escape an abusive relationship.
  • Dale from Westagte On Sea, United Kingdomthis is a song about a type of person be it male or female,it just happens to be female in this case,after just coming from a relationship after 6 years with a person like this it takes my breath away every time i hear it.
  • Nick from New York City, Nywow, i think it paints a very negative picture about women. but he disguises it with a soft piano & smooth voice. find one part that is complimentary towards the woman in this song. please - find it.

    She can kill with a smile
    She can wound with her eyes
    She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
    And she only reveals what she wants you to see
    She hides like a child
    But she's always a woman to me

    She steals like a thief
    But she's always a woman to me

    Oh, she takes care of herself

    She will promise you more
    Than the Garden of Eden
    Then she'll carelessly cut you
    And laugh while you're bleedin'
  • Michael from Sydney, AustraliaEvery woman I have ever known closely including my Mum, sisters, girlfriend, wife, lovers, friends have all been just like the way Billy describes her. And I would not have them any other way! That's women! Love it. :)
  • Steve Marvin from Madison, Wi, WiThanks, once again to Michael from NY, not only for the apt interpretation of the "shadows" phrase but also for the wise advice.
  • Allison from Albany, Nyi think this song is about a girl who wants everyone to believe she's all tough and mean but the guy knows that really she's harmless and a "woman".
  • Erik from Los Angeles, CaIt`s people`s perfections that make us like them, it`s their imperfections that make us love them.
  • Michael from New York, NyThanks for the comments, Steve. Shadows are derived images casted in a way to create a false illusions. I have seen how scary and manipulative and hurtful they can be. Joel also wrote "I love you just the way you are", "An innocent man", "A matter of trust" to the same person, I believe. And you can see the spectrum of thoughts he's going through. He has a very noble way of loving and he's willing to make any sacrifice. Just that sometimes you don't make sacrifice to support your love ones hurting people, whether that's him or others. Not even a mother will love a child like that. When this line is crossed, it's obsession, not love. Their relatioship eventually turned into a huge disaster. It's true - a narcisist usually seek someone with bigger ego issues than his/her own. The two of them just have to grow up :-)
  • Michael from New York, NyThanks for the comments, Steve. Shadows are derived images casted in a way to create a false illusions. I have seen how scary and manipulative and hurtful they can be. Joel also wrote "I love you just the way you are", "An innocent man", "A matter of trust" to the same person, I believe. And you can see the spectrum of thoughts he's going through. He has a very noble way of loving and he's willing to make any sacrifice. Just that sometimes you don't make sacrifice to support your love ones hurting people, whether that's him or others. Not even a mother will love a child like that. When this line is crossed, it's obsession, not love. Their relatioship eventually turned into a huge disaster. It's true - a narcisist usually seek someone with bigger ego issues than his/her own. The two of them just have to grow up :-)
  • Steve Marvin from Madison, Wi, WiI found the comment by Michael of New York regarding NPD to be very helpful.
  • April from Baltimore, MdTo me, this song has always seemed like he's singing about a woman with her guard up. Possibly she's been hurt before and he is trying to love her but those emotional obstacles get in the way. "She takes care of herself, she can wait if she wants, she's ahead of her time. She never gives out, and she never gives in, she just changes her mind." I could be wrong but thats what I've always thought.
  • Michael from New York, NyAnyone who has a relationship with a person with NPD will have a similar experience to the song. I'm not familiar with Joel's life and on reading from his past on this webpage confirms my belief in why he wrote this song. But not everyone who has the same suffering can write this. Every word in this song and the melody was carefully chosen. The song sounds forgiving, sweet or bittersweet if one may say. It's actually acceptance and a sense of thankfulness to life itself. It takes someone who has undergone a lot and to come in order to write this. Every word here is the truth and it comes from the heart. Btw, 'the most she will do is to throw shadows at you" - note that he uses "will" instead of "could". Also he does not blame the woman but himself - that's his way of saying his acceptance of this tragic. The song is very positive and has a very good message to the world. I hope he will keep singing it and more people will get to share and understand it.
  • Steve Marvin from Madison, Wi, WiI think Joel is singing about a Narcissist. Perhaps the type attracts him or gets under his skin.
    I think the line "she's ahead of her time" refers to how a narcissist's habit of equating image with reality both allows and requires the woman to be editing her future history even before she acts. The line "the most she will do is throw shadows at you" used to confuse me. I thought the "you" meant someone else as if to say she won't get to "you" like she does to me. On further reflection, I think the "you" is consistent throughout the song, meaning him , you, or anyone who adores her. So then I take the line "most she will.... shadows at you" to mean that the emotionally vacant narcissistic woman, who uses the man only as a mirror to reflect her own beauty, will never offer back anything more than an empty shadow, .... evidence merely that she is standing in your light which is not getting through to her. She is blocking it, maybe absorbing it, but unable to reflect back any of her own. She's a black hole. Her emptiness is her power. And his inability to fulfill her feels like weakness, which feels like need, which feels like love. And maybe it is.
  • Farrah from Elon, NcA gorgeous song indeed!!!!
  • Richard from San Francisco, CaThe key to this song's meaning is revealed in the lyric, "the most she will do is throw shadows at you." Joel is singing about New York City. All the lyrics fit this context, "She's ahead of her time," "...she'll carelessly cut you/And laugh while you're bleedin'," "...she'll bring out the best/And the worst you can be," and so on. He is comparing the city he loves to his ideal of a woman.
  • Jon from Charlton, MaActually I went to a concert the other night (6/13/08) and he sang this. He also sang it when I saw him in '06.
  • J.b. from San Jose, Ca"And the most she will do is throw shadows at you, but she's always a woman to me."
    GREAT LINE!!!!!!!!
  • Michaela from Brooklyn, NyThis song is sweet.This man loves or is strongly attracted to this woman,despite her personality traits.I always liked the song because of it,and think to myself hopefully someday I'll find a man who will love me despite my personality flaws.The womn in the song was interesting to me,I thought she was a made up character.I think it's sweet how Billy Joel wrote this about his ex wife but the romance deid because he didn't want to sing about anymore,not to mention feeling nothing.This is also the same woman he wrote the song,'Just The way you Love'.sad.
  • Luis Gerardo from Mexico City, MexicoAdd another performance of this song in a concert by Billy. December 12th. 2007, Foro Sol, México City.
    L.G. Zavala, Air Personality, Horizonte 107.9 FM, México City
  • Gerry Walsh from Melbourne, AustraliaNot bad for an ex boxer and someone that whom started rough.
  • Megan from St. Louis, MoIn one of the song facts up top it says he doesn't play this song in concert anymore, but I just went to a concert 2 months ago and he sang this song.
  • J.b. from San Jose, CaGreat lyrics. Beautiful piano, acoustic guitar and flute to accompany the great lyrics.
  • Heather from Bristol, CtI think that to some extent, these supposed "flaws" are what Billy Joel was initially attracted to his first wife. He married her, didn't he? Perhaps he was in denial, a dreamer to want to be with a woman like this. But love can do that to you. You will overlook everything that is wrong with a person because you love them & block out what others say about him or her. It is beautiful when a guy can write about a relationship & be like, yea she does me wrong, but I still come out on top" & I hope that this experience made him stronger as a result.
  • Hese from Raahea very fluent valze
    finely running piano
    good for a wedding valze ??
  • Mike from Worcester, MaBilly Joel DOES play this in concert, infact he played it as recently as April 22 2006 in Hartford, the second to last show of his US Tour. It was really good live, I enjoyed it at the show more than the studio version.
  • Matt from West Springfield, MaKinda reminds me of a shakespeareian sonnet.
  • Joe from La, CaHe recently said on Entertainment Tonight - after Pink walked down the isle to it, he was adding it back to his concert song set and thanked her.
  • Dennis from Anchorage, AkI don't see this as being about her flaws at all. I always got the impression that he was saying that the woman always treated him well, but was unkind to someone else. He was telling that person "the problem is you, not her."
  • Pete from Nowra, AustraliaInnocent Man also a great song , not yet in Songfacts!!!!!!!!!!!! as Leyton Hewitt would say

    "Come On "
  • AnonymousI'm not so sure it's loving her in spite of her flaws. I think it might be more like loving her because of her flaws. I'm not even certain their flaws. Irresistable charms? There's a sort of melancholy to the song, like he wants to believe she's "a woman", but can't completely convince himself. That's not right either. Maybe more of he's learned what it is a woman can do to you, but he doesn't want to believe it. He wants to "blame it all on yourself". He can't reconcile the things a woman can do to a man with the chivalristic notion he seems to hold of a woman. She's on this pedastal, even though he seems to know she shouldn't be. I don't know. That doesn't seem like what I'm trying to say either. There's just this deep, soulful, melancholical hurt in the melody and in his voice that reminds me of the dreamer who refuses to accept their dream has fallen around them. I think that better explains what I was trying to say from the beginning. Maybe someone else can put the feeling this song evokes in me in better words.
  • Robert from Puyallup, WaChris De Burgh may have been listening to this song when he wrote his own song called "Something Else Again". It's also a song about a woman he loves, and is so similar, lyrically and melodically, that it's a wonder Billy Joel didn't sue De Burgh. Listen to it sometime. It's on De Burgh's album 'Crusader', released in 1979.
  • Alvin from Sioux Center, Ialove despite her flaws, which is really what love is. or so i hear.
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanGreat vocal phrasing on this one. It's underrated.
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