52 Years Of Piano Man


Mary Kimbrough, Staff Member

From Cold Spring Harbor in 1971 to River of Dreams in 1993, William Martin (Billy) Joel’s music has enamored listeners from all across the world. Now, at the age of 73, Joel continues to perform around the world and has performed 135 times at Madison Square Garden with 88 of those shows being a part of his residency with them. 

Born on May 9th, 1949 to Howard Joel and Rosalind Nyman in Long Island, New York; Billy Joel spent his early years in a middle class suburb where his parents enrolled him in piano lessons at age 4. Joel fell in love with the art and history of classical music and the piano, but also played in bands during his teenage years and early adulthood before finding fame. Joel knew that he had a passion for all music, but focusing on classical music alone would never “pay his bills” according to him. So, he chose to pursue a career in music releasing predominantly soft rock albums. HIs attitude about the reality of his career as a rockstar can be seen in his hit single The Entertainer from his 1974 album, Streetlife Serenade. 

Joel released his first album Cold Spring Harbor in 1971 produced by Artie Ripp and under Family Productions/Columbia label. This album included tracks such as She’s Always a Woman and She’s Got A Way that were not originally popular due to the fact they were soft love songs, but became very popular later in his career. He then went on to release Piano Man in 1973 with two of his biggest hits, Piano Man and New York State of Mind, Streetlife Serenade in 1974, Turnstiles in 1976, The Stranger in 1977, which is arguably one of his most popular and well known albums, 52nd Street in 1978, Glass Houses in 1980, Songs in the Attic in 1981, which Joel claims to be a collection of songs from all of his career that he never originally recorded and released, The Nylon Curtain in 1982, An Innocent Man in 1983, The Bridge in 1986, Storm Front in 1989, and finally River of Dreams in 1993. He also released Fantasies and Delusions in 2001, but this was after he announced the official end of his production career. 

Even following the official end of his career, Joel continues to tour and perform yearly. He has a residency at Madison Square Garden in his home state of New York where he performs roughly once a month. As of now, he has performed 135 at this venue and just completed his 88th show as a part of his residency there this past Sunday, March 26th, 2023. At this performance, he brought out special guest Billy Gibbons from ZZ top to perform with him, and after exiting the stage, he came back out to perform an encore of 4 additional songs. These included Piano Man, It’s Still Rock and Roll to me, and You May be Right. 

Despite the longevity of Joel’s music career and his age, he doesn’t seem to be planning to slow down anytime soon. He frequently refers to his “Road to 100” in reference to his goal to perform 100 residency shows at Madison Square Garden. Joel has also vowed to continue to perform at Madison Square Garden until he stops selling out.