Wendy Rush

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 06: Musician Billy Joel visits "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" at Rockefeller Center on January 6, 2016 in New York City.

Billy Joel is one of the most celebrated musicians of his time. But that doesn’t mean we all know everything about him. Sure, we know his music, and the fact that he was married to Christie Brinkley. But there’s a lot more to the Piano Man than what we’ve seen in headlines.

Supermodel Christie Brinkley, wearing an off-the-shoulder black dress and straight blonde hair with bangs, stands next to musician Billy Joel, wearing a black jacket, white shirt and tie.

Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley were married between 1985 and 1994. The Piano Man actually wrote Uptown Girl for her and she appeared in the video for the song. (Photo by Diane Freed / Liaison Agency)

A Little History On Billy Joel

He was born in 1949 in the Bronx and was raised in Long Island, according to brittanica.com. Billy’s father was a trained pianist, so it was only inevitable that young Billy would venture into the musical arts as well.

However, Billy Joel resisted learning piano when his mother tried to force it on him. He ultimately decided to take up a career in music after he saw the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan Show. That was when young Billy knew that he knew he wanted to be a musician.

American television host Ed Sullivan (center) smiles as he stands, with the members of British rock group the Beatles, on the set of his television variety series, 'The Ed Sullivan Show'. From left, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Sullivan, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney. The photo was taken prior to the group's debut performance on the show later that day.

Ed Sullivan smiles as he stands with the Beatles, on the set of his television variety series, ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ at CBS’s Studio 50, New York, New York, February 9, 1964. It was after seeing one of the Beatles’ performance on the show that Billy Joel knew he wanted to be a musician.

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.

Related: Billy Joel Concert Gives Opera Fans Pleasant Surprise

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.

7 Interesting Facts About Billy Joel

Joel is one of the most-beloved singer-songwriters of our time. So let’s get to know the man a little more with these interesting facts.

  • 1. He Voiced An Animated Character

    Joel was the voice of Dodger in Disney’s Oliver & Company. Playing opposite a young Joey Lawrence, who voiced Oliver. At the time, the movie didn’t get great reviews. Fatherly.com suggests it might be because the director tried to retell the Oliver Twist story with animals and it just doesn’t work. The movie still isn’t high on many people’s list of Disney greats.


  • 2. He Married His Bandmate's Wife

    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.

    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)

  • 3. He's Really Short

    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. Here he is next to his current wife, Alexis Roderick. She stands on 5’4″ tall but has heels on in this photo.

    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)

  • 4. He Learned To 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 four upon his mother insisting he learn. But a boy in New York playing piano wasn’t received so well in his day. Joel 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!

  • 5. He Was A Piano Man In Real Life

    After his first solo album wasn’t a success, Billy Joel had to find another way to pay the bills. He took a job at The Executive Room in Los Angeles. There, he played piano under the name Bill Martin. And wrote “Piano Man” after his real experiences there. Hence the line “Bill I believe this is killing me…”

    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)


  • 6. He Has Received Many Honorary Degrees

    Sometimes people are born with things you just can’t teach. And Joel didn’t need to go to college to become a musical legend. But he still got the degrees. Honoring ones, including Doctor of Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music, Doctor of Music from Berkeley, and five others.

    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)

  • He Tried To End His Life Once

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

    This fact isn’t so fun, but true nonetheless. In 1970, just after his duo Attila, broke up, Joel was in a pretty bad place. He actually tried to end his life. His attempt came by him drinking furniture polish. Fortunately, he wasn’t successful. Joel ended up in the hospital where he recovered.

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