Born on May 9th, 1949 in the Bronx, New York, Billy Joel grew up with a classically-trained pianist father, and a mother who was insistent that Billy learn how to play the instrument. By the time he was age 16, Joel had excelled at playing piano, having been in three bands before he had his driver's license. Although he was a musical prodigy, he failed to pass an English class in high school, thus not being able to graduate.
Billy Joel: A professional pianist by age 16
Billy Joel: The start of songwriting & singing
By the mid-1960s, Joel was inspired by many genres of music, including music from The Beatles and Ray Charles. He had been a part of three different bands at this point, one of which he had an affair with his band member's wife (Elizabeth Small).
Small and Joel would later marry in 1973. Nevertheless, in 1971, Joel had signed a contract with the record company Family Productions, who released his debut album, Cold Spring Harbor. Unfortunately, the album was poorly produced and ended up being a commercial disaster.
By the following year, Joel left the East Coast to move to Los Angeles, where he signed with Columbia Records. It was during this time where he played under the pseudonym "Bill Martin" at a piano bar and began performing his future iconic hit "Piano Man". In 1973, Joel released his next album with Columbia, where his signature song became a huge success and he started touring throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Billy Joel: His next albums
From 1974-1986, Joel released eight more studio albums. All were incredible commercial successes. The Stranger (1977) surpassed Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge over Troubled Water in sales, which was Columbia's prior best-selling album. He would then sell over 7 million copies of the album, 52nd Street (1978).
Additionally, Joel and his album won Grammys for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, and Album of the Year. Throughout the 1980s, Joel had everyone singing along to his songs like, "Uptown Girl" and "Innocent Man".
Billy Joel's Further Achievements
In 1989, Joel received the Grammy Legend Award. He continued to tour, mostly alone, but sometimes also with his dear friend and fellow musician, Elton John. By 1999, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by no less than his idol, Ray Charles. In 2013, he received the Kennedy Center Honors, and has been presented with many honorary doctorates during this time. He also finally turned in a few essays to his high school, graduating 25 years later.
Today, the music legend is married to equestrian, Alexis Roderick. The couple has two daughters together and has been together since 2009. Joel also has another daughter with his former wife and model, Christie Brinkley.
Outside of his personal life, Joel has a residency at Madison Square Garden in New York, where his shows continuously sell out. At this residency alone, over 1.23 million tickets have been sold, with nearly 70 performances. His last album was in 2001, and so far, he has no further plans to record anymore. Having a career gross of $896 million probably has something to do with that.