Chuck Klosterman has a great phrase about Billy Joel. He says that on a scale of white to black, where white is the lamest someone could be and where black is the coolest person in the world, Billy Joel is orange. He’s cool the way your grandpa is cool. That’s why this clip is so awesome.
Here’s a clip of Billy Joel and Vanderville University taking a request from a young kid in the crowd. He could’ve said no. Could have said that he just didn’t have time. But he indulges the kids. And he really let it go. Listen to the crowd when he puts his sunglasses on – you can see the Old Billy come alive. He’s up for the challenge.
I love Billy Joel. I was have. I recently listened to the podcast about him where he talked with Alec Baldwin about his career.
I was wondering why Billy had been married three times. He’d always nailed everything – his music, his image, he always did everything the way you wanted to. Why did he fail so miserably at his relationships? He talks about how when he’s in the middle of an album he can’t turn “it” off. He thinks about every chord and lyric of every song, every second of the day, and he thinks you have to be like that because it’s art and he must get it right. But. As a result his relationships have all suffered and he was never really be there for other people.
Anyway these are two great clips. Definitely watch the video if you have a few minutes. If you have a little bit longer them listen to the podcasts it’s a great one too.
I also like what the music writer/pundit Lefsetz said about the clip:
Billy does these college shows. Where he tells his story. Can’t make as much money as he does in an arena, but it’s much more fulfilling, it’s different. And at this small show, he knocks it so far out of the park you become a fan, even if you weren’t one before.
Billy Joel… Wasn’t he supposed to be a joke?
Don’t pay attention to the press. Hang around long enough and you outlive the critics. Don’t forget Led Zeppelin was panned by “Rolling Stone.” And we can’t even remember who wrote the review.
College kids are not supposed to care, they’re not supposed to know. But listen to them ooh and ahh in this clip. That’s what’s great about being young, the moment is the most important. It’s all about the now. Which is why we revere the youth, they’re untainted by experience, they don’t know what they don’t know, and they can let go.
Normally, “New York State Of Mind” is about poignancy. But in this case, it’s like being at Yankee Stadium, Billy is truly playing to the last row, and he has each and every person in the palm of his hand.
And he does Sinatra and acknowledges it.
And the longer he goes on, the more you realize that Elton gets all the accolades, but his old piano-dueling partner is the one who’s still got the pipes. You realize that Billy is an American, one of us.