The music of Billy Joel is timeless, and he seems to have written a song for every mood, every setting, and every situation. Whether you are watching Billy Joel belt out hits live in concert or you are listening to him play on your favorite oldies radio station while driving in your car, the Piano Man is a master at taking listeners back to places and times that are nothing now but memories. Here are the top ten songs by Billy Joel.
As a former New Yorker living in Hawaii, no song takes me back to the Empire State like Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind. The song reminds me of Shea Stadium after a Mets route of the Phillies, of sitting on the subway reading the Daily News, of sitting after work at my favorite watering hole, sipping a scotch and waiting for a juicy New York Strip Steak. The song is so simple, yet it is capable of transporting the listener to the Big Apple from anywhere in the world. It can be found on Billy Joel’s double-disc set titled Greatest Hits Volumes I and II.
Another iconic tune by Billy Joel is We Didn’t Start the Fire, a fast-paced song with machine gun lyrics. Billy Joel shoots off familiar names of pop culture from the past, from Harry Truman and Joe DiMaggio through Eisenhower and Liberace, right up to AIDS, crack and Bernie Goetz. Of course, this song dates itself by stopping there. And thankfully so. No “9/11, terrorism, Iraq War, I can’t take it anymore!” No “iPods, metrosexuals, Tony Blair and W, American Idol – F*#k you! We didn’t start the fire!” No “Michael Jackson molesting kids, Paris Hilton sex vids,” and so on and so on…
A lighter song is Billy Joel’s The Entertainer, an upbeat tune about a performer who has been all around the world and laid all kinds of girls. But he knows his place and he knows that if he doesn’t find himself with hit after hit on his hands, he’ll get put in the back on the discount rack, and he’ll never be heard from again. Of course, with Billy Joel’s terrific list of hit songs, he’s established himself so that he will never be faced with such a glum situation.
I attended college in the shadows of the industrial town of Allentown, Pennsylvania, so forgive me if I get sentimental about Billy Joel’s song, Allentown. As usual, Billy Joel is able to slip into blue collar duds and portray the world of the working class. You can almost smell the smoke emanating from the Allentown smokestacks, and hear them tearing factories down now that they have gotten all the coal from the ground.
Another working-class song that puts you right there is Downeaster ‘Alexa’. Found on Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volume III CD, this is a magnificent song about a second generation sea captain, who is struggling to make a living in the Atlantic off the coast of Rhode Island.
Of course, what list of Billy Joel songs would be complete without Piano Man? You can almost smell the beer on the microphone, the descriptions in this sad yet somehow uplifting song are so vivid. The perfect song to drink to, Piano Man evokes feelings of unfulfilled promise and a deeper sadness and aloneness that is felt by everyone at some point in our lives.
An odd love song about a guy who doesn’t want to be blamed for other men’s sins against women is An Innocent Man. Perfect for the guy who is trying to win over a girl with a broken heart. Meanwhile, if your sister has gone out (she’s on a date?), you might as well sit at home and masturbate, and listen to Captain Jack. Or ride your motorcycle in the rain while listening to You May Be Right on your iPod.
My favorite Billy Joel song is Keeping the Faith. An upbeat tune about a guy with a vivid remembrance of the past, who isn’t stuck living in it. He sings about it unsentimentally, pompadour and all. And who can’t empathize with the line, “Drank a lot of take-home pay!”
If you are somehow new to Billy Joel, pick up his Greatest Hits CDs, or the Essential Billy Joel. You won’t be disappointed. This is a list of Billy Joel’s top ten songs, but his list of hits goes on and on…