Born in the Bronx and raised in Hicksville, NY, as the son of a classical pianist, Joel began taking piano lessons at an early age. Playing in piano bars throughout high school to earn money to help his mother, Joel did not graduate, deciding to forgo a college education in order to pursue a music career.
Joel began his career as a founding member of The Echoes, later joining The Hassles and Attila, though these bands would not prove to be the big break he was after.
In 1971, Joel released his first album, Cold Spring Harbour, to little fanfare. It wasn’t until a live version of “Captain Jack”, performed on the album’s tour, caught the attention of Columbia Records, prompting them to sign Joel.
After signing with Columbia Records, Joel would release a series of albums during the 1970s, including Piano Man, Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles. But it wasn’t until 1977, with the release of The Stranger that Billy Joel shot into stardom. The album became Columbia’s best-selling album and produced a string of hits including, “Just the Way You Are”, “Movin’ Out”, “She’s Always a Women” and “Only the Good Die Young”.
With high expectations, Joel followed up the success of The Stranger with the 1978 album, 52nd Street. The album was a commercial and critical success, earning Joel the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Featuring the singles “My Life”, “Honesty” and “Big Shot”, the album helped solidify Joel as one of music’s top stars.
Throughout the 1980s, Joel would release five commercially and critically successful albums, three of which would top the Billboard charts, beginning with Glass House. Scoring hits with the likes of “Tell Her About it”, “Uptown Girl” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, Joel continued his successful music career until 1994, with the release of River of Dreams, his last album of contemporary music.
A six-time Grammy winner, Joel was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 1992 and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.
Beginning in 2014, Billy Joel has held a residency at Madison Square Garden, playing monthly sold out shows, and there is currently a Billy Joel tour scheduled for 2015.
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