The tell-all tome, out Tuesday, dishes the dirt on the Grammy-winning piano man
First and foremost: Billy Joel learned at a very young age that being a musician was an excellent way to meet girls.
In Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography, out Tuesday, the musician, 65, told biographer Fred Schruers that he once did an Elvis impersonation in the third grade that got all the fourth grade girls screaming. “That’s when I recognized there’s a lot of power in this music stuff,” he says. “As I got older and started liking girls, I realized that the piano was better than a sports car. I’d be playing and I’d look up, and, ‘Wow, there’s a girl!’ I thought, ‘This is great’.”
But there was so much more to Billy Joel’s life and career than picking up chicks. Below are five things the book taught us about the Grammy-winning legend, who has sold over 150 million records.
On a vacation in St. Bart’s in 1982, a 16-year-old Whitney Houston approached Joel, telling him she wanted to be a singer and that he should listen to her. “I hope I was polite to this girl, but I’m sure there was just an edge of, ‘Go away, kid. You’re bothering me,’ to my attitude. I’ve kicked myself many times since,” says Joel.
Prior to marrying Christie Brinkley, Joel enjoyed a fling with then-19-year-old Elle Macpherson – and there was some overlap between the two. One time, Joel brought Brinkley up to his penthouse, and when the elevators opened onto the foyer, there stood Macpherson. “Part of me thought, ‘Oh god,’ ” says Joel. “Another part of me was going, ‘Holy crap, if my friends could see me now!’ ”
A 14-year-old Sean Lennon was once lamenting the sad state of the world to Joel, telling him, “You grew up in the fifties, when nothing happened.” Joel said, “Are you kidding me? Have you ever heard of the Korean War? Little Rock? The Hungarian Uprising?” Joel wrote “We Didn’t Start the Fire” as a response to Sean and his generation, to remind them that epic struggles had been going on forever.
Joel enjoyed dating models, who lived in group apartments on the Upper East Side. The song was originally “Uptown Girls,” and about the “model warrens,” but when he began exclusively seeing Brinkley, he changed it to just “Uptown Girl.” (Aww.)
In 1970, Joel found himself facing feelings of despair and hopelessness, and attempted suicide. “The bleach didn’t look too palatable, so I drank the Old English Scratch Cover,” he says. “I ended up sitting there, polishing my mother’s furniture by farting a lot.”