This Month In History
May 2015

This Month in NYS History – New York Singer/Songwriter Billy Joel is Born – May 9, 1949

Billy Joel has won six Grammy music awards and was nominated for a total of 23. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Billy Joel has won six Grammy music awards and was nominated for a total of 23. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Singer/Songwriter Billy Joel was born on May 9, 1949 in the Bronx, New York. Though originating from the Bronx, Joel spent most of his life in the suburbs of Long Island, growing up in the Nassau County town of Hicksville. The son of Howard Joel, who had been a classical pianist in his native Germany before escaping the Nazis, and his mother Rosalind Nyman, Joel began piano lessons at an early age. He paid his way through his early years by performing at a piano bar in Los Angeles, which would later become his inspiration for the notable melody “Piano Man.”

Though he jumped from different British Invasion-styled groups in the sixties, Joel eventually settled on becoming a solo artist, debuting with “Cold Spring Harbor” in 1971, named after the Long Island hamlet. Sales were initially disappointing, but it paved the way for Joel to eventually be signed by the mammoth Columbia Records. It was then that many of Joel’s most famous serenades came to life. He would go on to release Billboard topping anthems such as “New York State of Mind” and “Movin’ Out.” Many of Joel’s songs had notable references to New York regions and landmarks, such as Oyster Bay, 52nd Street and the Hudson River.

Joel used his upbringing on Long Island and his love of New York to help shape his career as a musician. His early life on the North Shore of Long Island made him an avid boater, leading to his writing of “The Downeaster Alexa,” a ballad of the troubles and hardships many fishermen on the coasts of Long Island must endure just to provide for their families.

Throughout his career, Joel has won six Grammy music awards and was nominated for a total of 23. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. His status as a native son of New York continues, as he became one of the most notable artists in the modern era to declare a residency at a major arena. As of January 2014, Joel has a residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City, playing one show a month for an indefinite time period.

Joel performed the “Last Play at Shea Stadium,” former home of the New York Mets, in a landmark 2008 concert that was the final act at the venue. It was also recently announced that Joel will be the final act to play the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum before a massive overhaul in August 2015. The show marks Joel’s 32nd appearance at the venue.

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