Wendy Rush

Weekdays 10:00am - 3:00pm

Happy Birthday to the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel!

Billy Joel is celebrating his 74th birthday today, May 9. He was born on this day in 1949 in the Bronx, New York and raised alongside a cousin whom his parents adopted. Joel’s father was a trained pianist, if you’re wondering where Joel gets his talent from. It runs in the family.

And even though he resisted learning piano when his mother tried to make him, Joel ultimately decided to take up a career in music. But it wasn’t because of his father. It was after Joel saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show that he knew he wanted to be a musician (wikipedia.org).

Joel joined his first band was when he was just 16 years old. They were called The Echoes and they started performing together in 1965. Between 1965 and 1970, Joel played with numerous bands, but never saw success with any of them. Even his first solo album (Cold Spring Harbor, 1971) was a commercial flop.

But ol’ Billy sure has a lot to celebrate now. His solo debut album flop may have just been the catalyst for his incredible career. After the disappointment of the album, Joel took up a job in L.A. playing piano. He penned Piano Man based on that experience. And he’s been a household name ever since.

Between 1971 and 1993, Joel released 12 studio albums. Including 33 Top-40 hits that he wrote himself. He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and the Long Island music Hall of Fame. Joel has been nominated for 23 Grammy awards and has won six. He has also received the Johnny Mercer award and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Joel is one of the most-beloved singer songwriters of our time. So have a drink for the Piano Man today. And check out these fun facts you may not have known about the birthday boy. – Wendy Rush

  • He voiced an animated character

    Joel was the voice of Dodger in Disney’s Oliver & Company. He also wrote music for the film.


  • He Married His Bandmate's Wife

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 11: Billy Joel performs onstage during ATLive 2022 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 11, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images for ABA)

    In 1969, Joel and drummer Joe Small formed a heavy metal duo called “Attila”. Their album debuted in July of 1970 and the duo broke up shortly thereafter. They sited “personal issues” as their reason for the split. Three years later, Joel married Small’s ex-wife, Elizabeth Weber Small. Coincidence? You decide.

  • He's really short

    NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18:  Billy Joel and wife Alexis Roderick pose in front of the banner during a press conference honoring Joel's 100th Lifetime Performance  at Madison Square Garden on July 18, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

    It might seem like he just likes tall women, and maybe that’s true. But Joel is also really short for a man. Standing only 5’5″ tall.

  • He learned boxing for a very specific reason

    AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 05:  Former boxer turned entertainer, Billy rJoel, arrives at his Auckland hotel late thursday night. Joel will perform with Elton John rin a concert, saturday night.  (Photo by Julia Thorne/Getty Images)

    Joel started piano lessons at the age of 4 upon his mother insisting he learn. He took up boxing when he was a teenager to defend himself when people made fun of his piano skills. Bet those bullies aren’t laughing now!

  • He was a real life "Piano Man"

    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25:  Billy Joel  perfroms at Billy Joel In Concert - New York, New York at Madison Square Garden on May 25, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

    After his first solo album wasn’t a success, Billy Joel worked at The Executive Room in Los Angeles. He played piano under the name Bill Martin. He wrote The Piano Man after his real experiences there.

  • He has received many honorary degrees

    NEW YORK - MAY 16: Artist Billy Joel poses before receiving an honorary Doctorates from the Manhattan School of Music at the Riverside Church in Harlem on May 16, 2008 in New York City. (Photo by Donna Ward/Getty Images)

    Including Doctor of Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music, Doctor of Music from Berkeley, and five others.

  • He tried to end his life once

    Portrait of American singer and songwriter Billy Joel, circa 1978. (Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images)

    In 1970, just after his duo Attila broke up, Joel drank furniture polish to end his life. He ended up in the hospital where he recovered.