Lyrics Tuesday #5: A Billy Joel Cliche

I grew up on Long Island, where everyone knows is where The Piano Man, Billy Joel, was born, raised, and resides.  So, if you are not a Billy Joel fan, then you are not a Long Islander.  Usually that was the case. So my parents were never Long Islanders.  Granted, my mom was born and raised in Huntington, 20 miles away from Hicksville, his hometown.  But we never had a Billy Joel record on our record shelf.  We never listened to him on the radio. And, we never spoke of him.  His music banned from our household over his short behavior towards my parents when they were working as waiters at a Friendly’s in the 80’s. One day, despite my parents disapproval, I picked up his “Greatest Hits” album from the library and brought it home.  It was borrowed, so I thought nothing of it.  But to my parents, I was turning my head away from good music. “You have in your hands John Lennon’s “Imagine”, and…BILLY JOEL?! Why are you contradicting yourself?”, my dad retorted.

Okay not direct quotes, I was 15 at the time, but it was something along those lines.  But I ignored his salty behavior, went upstairs, and put in disc one of Billy Joel’s “Greatest Hits” album, and just listened. With The Beatles, I experienced. I engaged. I was being.  But with Billy Joel, I understood.  I emulated.  I exposed.  Despite his rudeness towards my parents, he was an amazing talent.  Pianist, composer, vocalist, storyteller…you name it, he did it.  Hell, he is a franchise now at Madison Square Garden!  Crazy, that successful, but still stay true to his home, and lives aside his neighbors that helped him believe he can pursue this career.  Hell he moved to LA, and realized that it is nothing like his NY roots (Piano Man and New York State of Mind do tell this story of his growth into stardom in LA). I knew he had a reputation for having a ‘tude, but to those who knew him, it was because he just wanted to live in music, not the fame of it.  So for that, I adored him even more. So for today, I honor the man who made me rebel from my parents, and become that kid that sought out music that was unconventional for my inner circle’s taste, yet music that will hold on dear to me forever. Hopefully I will sing with you one day, Piano Man It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday The regular crowd shuffles in There’s an old man sitting next to me Makin’ love to his tonic and gin He says, “Son, can you play me a memory I’m not really sure how it goes But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete When I wore a younger man’s clothes.” La la la, di da da La la, di da da da dum Sing us a song, you’re the piano man Sing us a song tonight Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody And you’ve got us feelin’ alright Now John at the bar is a friend of mine He gets me my drinks for free And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke But there’s someplace that he’d rather be He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me.” As the smile ran away from his face “Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star If I could get out of this place” Oh, la la la, di da da La la, di da da da dum Now Paul is a real estate novelist Who never had time for a wife And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy And probably will be for life And the waitress is practicing politics As the businessmen slowly get stoned Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness But it’s better than drinkin’ alone Sing us a song you’re the piano man Sing us a song tonight Well we’re all in the mood for a melody And you got us feeling alright It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday And the manager gives me a smile ‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see To forget about life for a while And the piano, it sounds like a carnival And the microphone smells like a beer And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?” Oh, la la la, di da da La la, di da da da dum Sing us a song you’re the piano man Sing us a song tonight Well we’re all in the mood for a melody And you got us feeling alright


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