For some reason the music of Billy Joel has held a place in my heart and soul. Something about his Greatest Hits Vol 1 and the songs contained therein. I followed him until 1989’s “Storm Front.”
So I used to do these musical tournaments on Facebook. They were fun & about music. Much like the March Madness NCAA tourneys, there were brackets, categories, pitting artists against artists, and people had to vote on one in a match-up to move on. I was surprised that people seemed to like them. Anywhooo… I think the first or second one I did matched up Billy Joel against Elton John because those two artist are forever linked together, both being piano men, both toeing the line between rock, pop, and balladeer. I think only one other individual’s vote & I were the only one’s to vote for Joel. Everyone else loved them some Elton on account of “Candles In The Wind,” and Princess Diana version, the funeral… and also that biopic of Elton, “Rocketman.” He’s all the rage among the popular kidz and all…
I mean Elton is hard not to love right? He had the songwriting partnership with Bernie…Taupin or Sanders, I’m not sure which one really.
And Billy just had himself to write and perform all those songs. Granted some of his songs are pretty annoying… “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” and “That’s Not Her Style,” come to mind. But his good songs, so New York, so authentic to me. And he had troubles, of the mental health variety. Here’s one of Joel coming undone in one of his performances…
Sure angry man rage doesn’t win you fans but you gotta admit… that’s still rock and roll, mixed in with a little bit of punk…to me. Not bad for a piano man. And granted he was married to Christie Brinkley and all and then there was a divorce because Billy, let’s face it, was probably a handful, a character, difficult to live with.
Joel has been very public about his battles with depression and a failed suicide attempt in his 20’s when he tried to drink furniture polish instead of bleach because it would taste better. He was in a very dark place after his first failed album. He wrote the song, “You’re Only Human,” about teenage depression and dealing with suicidal thought…
You’re having a hard time and lately you don’t feel so good.
You’re getting a bad reputation in your neighborhood.
Sometimes that’s what it takes,
You’re only human.
You’re allowed to make your share of mistakes.
You better believe there will be times in your life,
When you’ll be feeling like a stumbling fool.
So take it from me you’ll learn more from your accidents,
Than anything that you could ever learn at school.
It’s not always easy to be living in this world of pain.
You’re gonna be crashing into stone walls again and again.
You’ve been keeping to yourself these days,
‘Cause you’re thinking everything’s gone wrong.
Sometimes you just want to lay down and die.
That emotion can be so strong.
But hold on.
You probably don’t want to hear advice from someone else,
But I wouldn’t be telling you if I hadn’t been there myself.
Sure that song hasn’t held up too well musically. It’s not his best song but the message of hope is still there. Hold on. Life holds magical things even though the present seems too heavy at times. But if you hold out… things will change as they inevitably do. That’s hope.
Memories of Joel’s songs and listening to them around people in your childhood. Memories of hope tied up in a flawed individual, a performer, a piano man, the hope to trust in tomorrow, because tomorrow can always bring good things, that today doesn’t seem to offer. That’s what this about about. It’s only rock and roll… but I like it.
Peace, Hope. And Good things.