William Martin “Billy” Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American musician and pianist, singer-songwriter, and classical composer. Since releasing his first hit song, “Piano Man,” in 1973, Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, according to the RIAA.
Joel made his debut in 1971 with “Cold Spring Harbor” but achieved breakthrough success with his 1973 follow-up “Piano Man.” The single “Piano Man,” a fictionalized retelling of Joel's days as a lounge singer in Los Angeles, peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart and at #4 on the Adult Contemporary Singles chart. The album hit #27 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and later was certified 4x platinum by the RIAA.
Another platinum selling album, “Streetlife Serenade,” followed in 1974. The single “The Entertainer” reached #34 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Turnstiles,” released in 1976, again would achieve platinum status and featured the song “New York State of Mind.”
His next album “The Stranger,” was released in 1977. While his four previous albums had been moderate chart successes, this was his breakthrough album, spending six weeks at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart. It remains Joel's best-selling non-compilation album to date, having been certified 10x platinum. “The Stranger” contained nine songs, many of which are now considered “classic Joel” including “Movin' Out,” “She's Always a Woman,” “Just The Way You Are,” “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant,” “Everybody Has A Dream” and “Only The Good Die Young.” Four singles from the LP charted on the Billboard Hot 100. “Just The Way You Are” peaked at #3 which won the Grammy for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year, “Movin' Out” and “She's Always a Woman” peaked at #17 and “Only The Good Die Young” peaked at #24.
“52nd Street,” released in 1978, was the first of many Joel albums to top the Billboard 200, along with his third and fourth Grammy win. It has since been certified 7x platinum. Three songs reached the Top 40 on the Hot 100, helping to boost the success of the album. “My Life” reached #3, “Big Shot” reached #14 and “Honesty” reached #24. The album was also successful with critics, winning the 1979 Grammy for Album of the Year.
“Glass Houses,” released in 1980, featured Joel's first song to peak at #1 on Billboard's Hot 100, “It's Still Rock and Roll to Me.” The album itself topped the Billboard 200 chart for six weeks and was certified 7x platinum.
“The Nylon Curtain,” released in 1982, peaked at #7 in the Billboard 200 and was certified 2x platinum. In early 1983, “Allentown” spent an unprecedented six weeks at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was one of the most played radio songs of the early 1980s, along with another Top 20 hit “Pressure.”
“An Innocent Man,” released in 1983, became one of Joel’s best-charted albums since “Glass Houses,” going directly to #4. It once again attained 7x platinum certification. It featured three Billboard Top 10 hit singles, “Tell Her About It” which reached #1, “Uptown Girl” which peaked at #3 and “An Innocent Man” which peaked at #10. Four other singles were released from the album, “The Longest Time” #14, “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” #27, “Keeping the Faith” #18 and “This Night.”
“The Bridge,” released by Columbia Records in 1986, had several successful singles, including “A Matter of Trust” peaking at #10, “Modern Woman” from the “Ruthless People”oundtrack, peaking at #10 and “This Is the Time” peaking at #18.
“Storm Front,” released in 1989, featured one of Joel's three #1 hits, “We Didn't Start the Fire,” a fast-paced song mentioning some of the major historical events that took place in his time, and “Leningrad,” Joel's take on the end of the Cold War. “I Go to Extremes,” placed at #6 The album itself peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified 4x platinum.
“River of Dreams,” released in 1993, peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified 5x platinum. The eponymous first single was the last Top 10 hit Joel has penned to date, reaching #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to the title track, the album included the hits “All About Soul” with Color Me Badd on backing vocals and “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel).”
The first album of Joel's classical compositions, “Fantasies & Delusions” was released in 2001. It was Joel's 19th album to chart on the Billboard 200, reaching #83 in October of 2001.
Joel was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio in 1999.