Interview: Billy Joel (Part 2) - JazzWax

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February 25, 2009


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Billy Joel

Dear Mr. Myers, Thanks for the interview. It was nice to talk about music for a change. I don't usually get asked about it much. I guess that's why I pretty much stopped doing interviews. Also, I forgot to mention that we named the album '52nd Street' because we recorded it at the old A&R Studio on the corner of 52nd and 7th -right on the corner of 'Swing Street'. I wanted to give a nod to all the great musicians that used to play in all those jazz clubs there -so I held a trumpet for the cover photo - .just as a gesture of respect - I never could play the damn thing. Regards, Billy Joel


Many thanks for the Phil Woods interview, plus Billy Joel follow up. It's great that jazz journalism still exists.

Charles Garnett

Very interesting interview. I like the focus of the discussion.

A brief tangent discussion on his songwriting process would have been an added bonus.

I've always wondered where he draws his lyrical styles from. Hes got so many great stories. Bob Dylan? Neil Young? Paul Simon?

J Cohen

Great interview. Billy Joel is remarkably humble about his piano-playing skills, but I think he's actually pretty under-rated as a piano player. In my opinion, he's one of the best piano players in rock music history, period. He might not be able to play jazz like Bill Evans, but who among us can say that they can play jazz like Bill Evans? (Answer: none of us)

You can definitely see the influence of jazz piano in Joel's work. For instance, even though his signature song, "Piano Man" is a folk song, Joel added a jazz-piano intro and a jazz-piano solo to his performance of the piece. So there's no doubt that Joel studied jazz pianists like Bill Evans. And it's really cool to hear him talk about it.

I'd be interested to know how he decided to include those jazz bits in "Piano Man." Did he come up with those piano parts in the studio, improvising? Or did he work them out on paper when he wrote the song?

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of a Song" (Grove) and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax is a two-time winner of the Jazz Journalists Association's best blog award.

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