Born in the Bronx, New York on May 9, 1949 as William Martin Joel, Billy Joel is an American based musician, established song writer and an amazing pianist. Currently, he is sixth bestselling artist of all time and the third bestselling solo artist in the United States. He released his first big hit Piano Man in the 1970’s, and afterwards became a household name. Uptown Girl is one of his best classics, even people of the younger generation have been known to bop to it, however apart from what I have mentioned above, not much is known of the man behind the songs. From his personal views to his married life, here are 9 amazing facts you did not know about the man and the legend, Billy Joel.
1. He comes from Music
Billy Joel’s father, Howard Joel was born in Germany and moved to Austria in 1957 to join his half-brother, Alexander Joel, who was at that time the chief musical director of the Stasststheather Braunschweig. On his mother’s insistence and against his will, Billy Joel took Piano lessons and later on learnt under the greats like noted American pianist Morton Estrin and musician Timothy Ford – well we can be thankful for his Jewish mother or we probably would not have his amazing music.
2. He trained as a Boxer
As a teenager, young Billy had a small frame, so he decided to learn how to defend himself and he chose to learn boxing and he was quite good at it, and he stopped after his twenty fourth match, he was quite famous in the amateur golden gloves circuit before his eventual dropout from the boxing circuit
3. He was a High School Drop Out
Billy Joel attended Hicksville High School while playing at a piano bar to help his mother make ends meet, and this really affected his attendance at school although he was an academically strong student. After missing a crucial English exam at the end of his Senior year, he did not have enough credits to graduate, however instead of going to summer school and graduate with high school diploma, he chose to drop out saying “To hell with it, if I’m not going to Columbia university, I’m going to Columbia records and you don’t need a diploma there”. In fact he did sign with Columbia records, and in 1992 he submitted essays and was awarded a high school diploma.
4. He’s no stranger to depression
In 1970 he experienced a career downturn and an unstable marriage, at some point, he actually left a suicide note which inspired the song Tomorrow Is Today and even drank furniture polish which he later said was “tastier than bleach“, at that point he was placed on suicide watch and in 2002, he was admitted into the Silver Hill hospital where he spent a month treating his alcohol based problems.
5. He does not have a bone in his thumb
In 1982, while joyriding his motorcycle, he suffered a mild accident where he badly injured his left thumb and till date he has no bone in there, thankfully he is right handed, although he says that he believes those who play the piano with their left hand are better gifted.
6. Multiple Doctorates and awards
He might not have graduated with his mates but he sure did catch up with them and surpass some even. Over the years, he has been awarded several honorary doctorates including the following: Doctor of Humane Letters, from Fairfield University (1991); Doctor of Music from Berkley College of Music (1993); Doctor of Humane Letters from Hofstra University (1997); Doctor of Music from Southampton College (2000); Doctor of Fine Arts from Syracuse (2006); Doctor of Musical Arts from the Manhattan school of music; Doctor of Music from Stony Brook University (2015). Also, he has had 33 top hits and 23 Grammy nominations – talk about lifetime achievements!
7. His Political Views
He has never been associated with endorsing any political agenda, neither has he come out to say he was supporting any political group, he has however performed at benefit concerts that have helped raise funds for political causes, he did this with Bruce Springsteen in 2008 to raise money for Barrack Obama’s presidential campaign and he told the press “People who pay for our tickets I don’t think they want to hear who you’re going to vote for and how you think they should vote”.
8. His Religious Views
Religion-wise, he is probably one of the Christian Jews in the world, in 2001 he said, “My parents were both from Jewish families, I was not brought up Jewish in any religious way, my circumcision was as Jewish as they got, I used to go to a Roman Catholic church with my friends, and when I was 11, I got baptized in a church of Christ in Hicksville, I’m a cultural Jew, I like the lower east side humor, the food, I also think the Yiddish language is terrifically expressive, does that make me a complete Jew or a partial Jew I’m not really sure.” During a performance at Madison Square Garden on August 21, 2017, he wore a yellow star of David on the front and back of his jacket protesting anti-Semitism expressed at the unite rally in Charlottesville Virginia the previous week.
9. His Marriage
Like most super stars, he is no stranger to cheating, failed marriages and drama. His first wife, Elizabeth Webber Small, was married to his then good friend and music partner Jon Small, when they started dating, soon their relationship rd4rt6was brought to limelight she severed her relationship with the both of them and shortly he attempted suicide twice and was admitted to deal with his problems, when he was released, she married him and even became his manager. In March 1985, he married his second wife Christie Brinkley, and together they had a daughter, although in 1994 they got divorced.
In October 2004, he married his third wife, Katie Lee and at the time of the wedding, he was 55 and she was 23, she was a celebrity chef on Bravos Top Chef and she hosted the show in its first season but did not return for the second. On July 4th, 2015 he married his fourth wife, Alex Roderick who was 33 at the time, and they have been together since then and on August 12th, 2015 their daughter, Della Rose Joel was born.