This song would be considered "next-to" a cappella - it contains only one actual instrument, that being a bass guitar. Everything else is voice, finger snaps and claps.
The song is a tribute to the Doo-Wop sounds of the '50s that Joel loved, complete with lyrics about being crazy in love with a girl. The song began, however, as a classical piano piece Joel was working on, which is also how is song "Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel)" came about.
Joel did all the vocal tracks himself, which required him to cover a lot of range. The original plan was to bring in a vocal group to sing it with him, but that didn't work out. Joel's producer Phil Ramone told Billy that their best option was for him to do it all himself.
On the TV show Family Guy, this song was used in a flashback to discuss the invention of singing. It showed several cavemen sitting around grunting, until they all spontaneously break out into this song.
Suggestion credit: Bert - Pueblo, NM
The song got a lot of airplay in Philadelphia, where Joel was always a very popular artist. It was even played on Soul stations there, and the song became a favorite of the guys who would later form the vocal group Boyz II Men. When Howard Stern hosted a Billy Joel town hall special in 2014, Boyz II Men performed this song. They explained that when they were going to high school, most of the selections for acapella groups were much older songs, but this one was "the most contemporary song we could sing and still be cool."
In the music video, directed by Jay Dubin, Joel sits alone after his high school reunion, class of '59, and recalls the good old days with his doo-wop group. Fans have been wondering about the janitor in the clip for years. Was he an old-school doo-wop star making a sly cameo? Dubin told us the answer, along with an unfortunate reminder of black stereotypes in the '80s:
"No, that's all bulls--t," he said of the rumors. "This is how that guy gets hired: There was this black guy who got us all this talent on one of the other music videos, I think 'Tell Her About It.' I remember he used to come in the office all the time saying, 'Hey, you got any work for me?'
[Producer] Jon Small said, 'No, but I need an older guy who looks like a janitor.' He said, 'No problem.' He gets on the phone: 'Uncle Willy? you want to be on TV?'
'Yeah, Uncle Willy'll do it.' He says to Jon, 'How much?' Jon says, 'A hundred dollars.' He says, 'Uncle Willy, I'll make you fifty dollars!' He took fifty and gave Uncle Willy fifty. That's all I remember about that. [Laughing]
Who the guy was, I have no idea. Was it racist? Absolutely. Back then, 8 out of 10 janitors at the local schools were black. They wanted to do that.
All I had to do was make sure the pictures looked good, he was in sync, and it was edited well. That was all I had to do. It was easy."
This is the only song with the word "Longest" in the title ever to chart on the Hot 100.
Jim from Lady Lake, FlBilly Joel sang the entire song himself. He recorded and mixed 14 tracks of himself singing. The only instrument on the track is a bass guitar.
To David Newman, The Beatles didn't right Devil in Her Heart. It was a single released by the girl group, The Donays. The Beatles changed "His to Her" and George Harrison sang lead on it. The Donays' version never had almost no chart success. The Beatles loved to find little known records by little known black artists, and cover them. many of the songs they covered were originally B-Sides.
Miles from Vancouver, CanadaPossibly my favorite song of Billy's. He does the multitracked harmonies so well, even if I miss the piano. I first heard this song from a Rockapella parody at the end of Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?, which got me interested in it. Truly a soulful 80's classic. In fact, it's cool that it's followed on the Greatest Hits album by You're Only Human, another uplifting song (matter of fact, I think I'll put it on now). Also, a clarification for David from Chicago, George was the one that sang "Devil In Her Heart". That song was a cover of the one-single wonder The Donays.
Mindy from Miami, FlAll the vocal tracks are by Billy Joel just Billy!
Teagan from Grand Rapids, MiIn the music video. The band members are the mock election winners. Liberty DeVitto being most handsome, Mark Rivera being most popular, *possibly Doug Stegmeyer as best athlete, *possibly David Brown as most likely to succeed, and Russell Javors as best dressed. When the music begins and the camera pans to Billy Joel, you can see on the adjacent wall that Joel was Class President.
* - Pretty sure Stegmeyer is best athlete, but it is hard to tell with that one and most likely to succeed.
Edward from Henderson, NvShe also says "Uptown Girl" is about her.
Yitz from Wilmington, DeThe song is about Christie, or at least she says so in an interview.
David Newman from Chicago, IlBilly Joel rhymes "chances" and "romance is" as did the Beatles in "She's Got the Devil in Her Heart". Kieth Richards says "steal anything that's good" (or something to that effect). My question is, "Who did Lennon/McCartney steal this rhyme from?"
Ken from Louisville, KyThe do-wop backing vocals were done by Billy and some of his band members.
Nate from A-town, Vano Hall and Oates were two of the guys singing in this song
Olivia from Webster Gro Ves, Moactually some teachers at my school sang this a cappella. honestly it wasn't that bad but not nearly as good as billy joel could ever do
Dc from Hilo, HiAren't all the vocals by multi-tracked by Billy Joel himself? Sure sounds like it..