You're Only Human (Second Wind)

Album: Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1985)
Charted: 94 9

Songfacts®:

  • After Billy Joel attempted suicide back in 1970 (by drinking furniture polish), it failed to kill him and he wrote the song "Tomorrow is Today" as the suicide note. Later on he was asked if he could write a song that could help prevent teenage suicide. Joel agreed, but the first recording concerned him because it had a dreary and depressing tone that he thought might give troubled teens the wrong message. As a result, he created a new version with bouncy, joyous beats and lyrics about personal forgiveness and optimism for life.
  • During the song, Joel noticeably hesitates with one of the verse lines and laughs after it. He decided to keep this mistake in the recorded version because it seemed to be proof of his personal fallibility, as in the line "You probably don't want to hear advice from someone else - But I wouldn't be telling you if I hadn't been there myself." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Landon - Winchester, OH, for above 2
  • The video, which was directed by Richard Friedman, opens with a kid about to throw himself off a bridge. Billy Joel then appears in some kind of guardian angel role and shows the young man what would happen if he went through with it and the effect it would have on his family. Angel Billy talks him down, and things quickly get better when he reconciles with his girlfriend.

    The video, like the song, contains many of the same missive you would find in any anti-suicide screed, but it's presented in a lighthearted way, which in many ways makes the message more powerful.

Comments: 6

  • Ronald Templeton from New YorkAlthough not really a comment, kinda like a bonus fact. The jingle Guardian Billy plays on his harmonica (In the music video), surprise surprise, is the opening jingle to Piano Man, on of Billy Joel's most famous songs, which is also basically like his logo, of sorts.
  • Vince from Essex Md"Just like a boxer in a title fight
    You have to walk in that ring all alone"
    Indeed!
  • Neil from Detroit, MiThis song has had an immense personal affect on my outlook on life. I recall a time when I was really struggling, and I heard this song on SiriusXM's 80s on 8. It honestly spoke to me in a manner that no one else could have. On a factual note, all of the royalties accumulated from the sales of the single were donated to various suicide prevention agencies.
  • Peter from Fort Mill, ScThe drowning red headed boy was Adam Savage of the Mythbusters.
  • Miles from Vancouver, CanadaI agree. I wish I'd heard the sing years before and it could have made something better of me. I have a disability and I keep "crashing in the stone walls," but I guess he's saying that as long as you don't do yourself in, you'll always get a second chance. Aside from that, it's very catchy.
  • Susan from Airdrie, -I really love this song. It has literally saved my life. I love the message and now that I've learned he's been at that point before makes it even more meaningful. Thanks, Mr. Joel! :)
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