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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

A history of Billy Joel's 70 years

In preparation for the upcoming Billy Joel concert in June of 2020 at Notre Dame Stadium, I thought it might be intriguing to take a look at the history and career of the now 70-year-old William Martin “Billy” Joel.

The Start:

The by-now largely successful musical path of Billy Joel started way back at the young age of four when Joel started experimenting with piano play. At the teenage year of 16, he was partaking in his third musical band before he even learned to drive. Joel would then drop out of high school. After school, he pursued his destined career in music. His first studio album “Cold Spring Harbor” was released in 1971, although it was not remotely commercially successful.

Rise to fame:

Later, in 1972, Columbia Records picked him up and his career soared to new heights with the top 20 single “Piano Man.” By 1977, Billy Joel would have four songs in the U.S. Billboard's top 25. When the early ‘80s hit he would win a Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and a People’s Choice award. Toward the end of the decade, his success sprung forward so intensely that he would be awarded a Grammy Legend Award in 1989.

The ‘not-so-bright’ side:

Of course, as with anything that sounds too good to be true, there were some more interesting aspects of his life throughout these times. His song “Only the Good Die Young” would spark much controversy among the Catholic and religious community as it was perceived by many as anti-Catholic. He would then go on to make somewhat of a political statement and perform in the Soviet Union. Additionally, in the early 2000s, his struggle with alcoholism became public as he went in and out of rehab.

Billy Joel today:

In the present, he has sold over 150 million records. With a whopping 33 top-40 chart hits, he continues to sell out enormous venues around the entire world.

The next step in his illustrious journey will be becoming only the second artist ever to play in concert outside in Notre Dame Stadium, following up one of the artists he helped to influence — Garth Brooks. Making his first visit to Notre Dame, Indiana in over 24 years, Billy Joel has performed at Notre Dame once every decade from the 1970s to 1990s. Tickets to the general public for this mid-summer 2020 event went on sale Oct. 18 at 10 a.m. Students and faculty from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross will also have the chance to attend.

Now that you know more about him, perhaps you will have the chance to see the “Uptown Girl,” “Piano Man” and “Only the Good Die Young” star live at the great University of Notre Dame.