Parade Interview: Billy Joel An Unlikely Rock Star

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In an exclusive in this weekend’s Parade, “Piano Man” Billy Joel goes deep with Dotson Rader about his music, his relationships with the women in his life, the toll of fame and superstardom, his struggles with alcohol and why he feels “like a very lucky man.”
Working-Class Hero. “I’ve been criticized for writing about unemployed factory workers and fishermen. I know exactly what I’m talking about,” he says. “We musicians invented unemployment. Look up ‘unemployment’ in a dictionary and there’s a picture of a musician.”
Yeah, Yeah Yeah! He was hooked on music by the Beatles. “They weren’t pretty boys, like Fabian. They weren’t Pat Boone, pushing a religious agenda. I remember the look on their faces on The Ed Sullivan Show: They were kidding around, having fun. They wrote their own music, they played their own instruments. The Beatles put it all together.”
Eternal Underdog. For the past four years, he’s played monthly at Madison Square Garden, filling New York’s biggest arena. July 18 will mark his 100th appearance. “I’m an unlikely candidate for a rock star. I’m like the eternal underdog. In my lyrics, there’s a lot of acknowledgment that I’m a screw-up—I’m human. I’m just as lost as you are. I guess people like that.”
New Beginnings. After a string of huge, career-defining hits, including “The Stranger,” “Just the Way You Are,” “Uptown Girl” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” his songwriting slowed to a trickle. “I couldn’t be as good as I wanted to be. It drove me crazy. The drinking was part of it. I’d just drown it in booze. I was in rehab twice. The second time, at Betty Ford, was one of the best things I ever did.”
The Women! “I love women. My whole life is women. My children are women. My wives are women. It’s a great muse to write about, relationships with women. Women are deep, man.”

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