My 10 Favorite Billy Joel Songs
There aren’t a lot of musicians I think I could list 10 favorite songs from, but Billy Joel is definitely one of the few in my book.
I can’t honestly remember the first time I heard a Billy Joel song. He’s been making music since before I was born.
Recently Sirius Radio ran a Billy Joel channel in which Joel himself talked about some of the inspirations behind many of his songs. It was quite interesting to hear how some of his more familiar songs came about. It was also interesting to hear how he was trying to experiment with different styles of both songwriting and performing.
Here are my top 10 favorites of his songs.
1. ‘Scenes From an Italian Restaurant’
In an interview, Joel said he was inspired to create this intertwining of three small incomplete songs by a Beatles song that similarly bridged pieces of incomplete songs into a single melody.
2. ‘Piano Man’
A lot of fans like this song while secretly complaining that it’s being played to death. But it’s a great song and it reportedly tells the story of Joel’s lounge singer days from the early 1970s. There’s also a historic significance to this one: it was his first hit single.
3. ‘Root Beer Rag’
This piano piece always amazes me. I always wanted to play piano but just never had the knack for it. If I could play just one tune on the piano, I think I’d shoot for this one. It will lift your spirits no matter how bad a day you’re having.
4. ‘Prelude/Angry Young Man’
This song was written well before the current political climate in which everyone is angry. But there’s something in the lyrics that are worth remembering: “I once believed in causes too / I had my pointless point of view / And life went on no matter who was wrong or right.”
5. ‘The Entertainer’
This song gives us a peek at the pressure for musicians who can become a success with a single then just as quickly fade into the obscurity of the discount rack. It was supposedly written as an angry response to his “Piano Man” being cut down and features the lines, “It was a beautiful song, / but it ran too long / If you’re gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit / So they cut it down to 3:05.”
6. ‘This is the Time’
Any time you’re feeling nostalgic about the good old days, this is a perfect song to listen to.
7. ‘I Go to Extremes’
I like the rhythm of this tune and its lyrics, said to refer to Joel’s manic-depressive tendencies manage to ring true as well: “Sometimes I lie awake, night after night / Coming apart at the seams / Eager to please, ready to fight / Why do I go to extremes?”
8. ‘Sleeping With the Television On’
I’ve heard this song called an older version of his “Tell Her About It.” It’s a song whose title is supposedly the result of not taking a chance on romance.
9. ‘I Don’t Want to Be Alone’
This older song is reminiscent of Elvis Costello and focuses on a couple on the verge of reconciliation. It’s a bit of a departure from the majority of Joel’s sound, but it’s one more facet of his talent.
10. ‘Falling of the Rain’
When I was in school, I hated — absolutely hated — having to write papers about what an author meant by a particular novel. What I like to think Joel might have meant here is that life’s challenges will come at you no matter what and it’s up to you to decide how to deal with them. There’s that, and the beautiful piano playing that sounds like falling rain.