Herb Alpert came up with this song's melody before sending it to co-producer Eduardo del Barrio to finish off. "He's a genius. I sent him what I had and he sent it back to me and we just started developing it," Alpert recalled to Billboard magazine. "I had it at 50 BPM and [del Barrio] just started developing it from there and one thing led to another. He started putting on this string passage and then I had a few sessions with him at his studio [in Los Angeles] and finished off the trumpet at my home [in Malibu]. It was pretty straightforward."
"Piano Man" was inspired by Billy Joel's time playing at a piano bar in Los Angeles. The "real estate novelist" was a guy who always talked about writing a book, but spent all his spare time in the bar.