What's the singer from Billy Joel

Billy Joel

Photo: playhousesquare.com

To start with, a quiz question: Whose grandparents once owned a department store in Nuremberg that mainly made a living from shipping laundry? The correct answer: Billy Joel. Although the pianist entered this world on May 9, 1949 as William Martin Joel in the New York Bronx, he does not deny his roots: "I wonder why I only love German composers. There is something in the German soul that can only be expressed through music. " Nevertheless, Billy sees himself as a real American, who certainly appreciates Bavarian specialties such as liver dumplings and white sausage.

Beethoven and Boogie-Woogie

Billy discovered his love for music at an early age - at the age of four - he strummed a piano for the first time and listened eagerly to the sound. Later, the little pianist with the typical googly eyes rather threw himself into Mozert and Beethoven instead of rock'n'roll. To this day the rumor persists that his father - himself a musician - slapped young Billy because he was playing a Beethoven sonata in a boogie-woogie rhythm. And with the school he quarreled, carried the red lantern there. "If it's not enough for Columbia University, I'll just go to Columbia Records," he yelled at his teachers.

His path to becoming a classical pianist seemed mapped out until one evening on February 9, 1964, William Martin saw "Fab Four" on the famous Ed Sullivan show on television. The Beatles, shortly afterwards known in the States like a sore thumb, shook the little New Yorker to the core. "There were these guys, they wrote their own songs and looked like the kids from the neighborhood," recalls Billy Joel. He had only one goal left: to play in a rock'n'roll band and become as famous as John, Paul, George and Ringo.

Photo: wrendom.com

Piano Man Bill

After years of hard work, he got his first record deal in 1971 and recorded the album "Cold Spring Harbor". But the work flopped, and the label pulled him over the table financially. Disappointed, he went into hiding as a bar pianist. He later dedicated his million-seller "Piano Man" to this time of depression. With the support of a radio station, Joel finally made the hoped-for leap to Columbia Records and started his unique career as a singer and songwriter. Albums like "Piano Man" (1973), "Turnstiles" (1976), "The Stranger" (1977), "52nd Street" (1978) to "River Of Dreams" (1993) represent his unprecedented path through music history.

The critics were full of praise, attesting to him "originality, viciousness, determination and a poetic strength that his contemporaries barely match" ("Melody Maker"). His single records, for example "Just The Way You Are", "My Life", Honesty "," It's Still Rock'n'Roll To Me "," Tell Her About It "and" Leningrad "regularly stormed the charts, where the musician's style was strongly reminiscent of the sound of Elton John. Until Billy did not want to write a song in 1993; the world tours were getting increasingly drained. A few concerts followed, but in the summer of 1998 he canceled all further appearances: " My body doesn't work the way it used to, and at 49 I'm singing pieces that I wrote when I was 20 or 30. It is time to do something different and leave my place to younger people. "From then on, the well-known musician became silent.

Nazi Neckermann

Only in 2006 did Billy Joel go on a big tour again; he also made guest appearances in Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main. A year later a new single "All My Life" was released and he also started a tour of America. His colleagues Paul McCartney and Steven Tyler were there as guests. What is important to Billy Joel these days: facing up to his past. His grandfather - that closes the circle - had to flee Nuremberg as a Jew in 1938. His department store "took over" a certain Mr. Neckermann - a die-hard Nazi. From which the later Neckermann empire emerged. Karl Amson Joel emigrated to America, first landed in Cuba and settled in New York. Where his grandson William, called Billy, was finally born in 1949.

"I do not hold any fault with the Neckermann grandchildren. It wasn't their fault," Joel sums up today. However, the meeting with them hardly brought anything. They defended their grandfather, Josef Neckermann, to the last, even advancing to the thesis that he had only done good. But the musician Billy Joel is - it seems - clarified above things, also above religions. Actually belonging to the Jewish culture, he was never particularly involved. His mother even made sure that he was baptized Protestant when he was a child. But the pianist and artist remained a free spirit.

Joachim Eiding

Sources: billyjoel.com - welt.de - laut.de - poplexikon.com - Bunte.de - br-online.de - rockhall.com - amazon.de - Das neue Rock-Lexikon, Barry Graves, Siegfried Schmidt-Joos and Bernhard Halbscheffel, Rowohlt


music4ever.de - What is actually doing ... - No. 37 - 10/09