Joltin’ Joel

One of the surprises of watching the benefit concert for Hurricane Sandy relief was seeing Billy Joel give a polished, thoroughly professional performance of songs that had obviously been chosen with some thought. I’ve never been the world’s biggest Billy Joel fan — not even a medium-sized one — but I thought his set put the wheezy sets by the Rolling Stones and The Who completely in the shade. Though I’d be deeply grateful never to hear “Piano Man”or “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” ever again, I nod along whenever a tune from An Innocent Man comes along on the radio, which happens often enough to keep me from feeling I actually need to buy one of the man’s discs. So what is it about the man’s work that inspires the level of venom in this piece and that piece? I’ve heard detractors call him pretentious and self-important — is there a building big enough to hold all the rock musicians guilty of those sins? He’s sometimes a Dylan manque? Who isn’t? The Tablet writer takes Joel to task for pretending to be a man of the people. Ooooh, snap. Next he’ll be telling us Mick Jagger isn’t a sharecropper’s son, or John Fogerty wasn’t actually born on a bayou. It all seems so out of proportion, So what gives? 

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