Billy Joel is the third-bestselling recording artist of all time, with his career spanning over 45 years. He has sold over 150 million records and recorded 21 top 40 hits. His self-titled album was the first from any artist to reach triple platinum status. Billy Joel’s impact on the music world is undeniable, and it comes as no surprise that he is considered one of the greatest musicians of our generation. As a songwriter, singer, and pianist, Billy Joel’s talent reaches far beyond what we hear in his songs. The many awards he has received for his music speak volumes about how much his fans love him and his music. A look at Billy Joel’s career reveals why he is such an influential figure in the field of music today.
1982-1984: Billy Joel Releases Three Platinum Albums in a Row
Billy Joel’s 1982 album, The Nylon Curtain, became his most successful record. This platinum-selling album stayed on the Billboard Top 200 chart for over two years. The album’s lead single, “Allentown,” was inspired by Billy’s Pennsylvania hometown. “Pressure,” the second single from The Nylon Curtain, was written about the rise of the New Wave movement. The next year, Billy released his third consecutive Platinum album, the hugely successful 1983 album, An Innocent Man. The title track, “An Innocent Man,” was the first single released from the album and reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. This album produced two additional singles: “The Man” and “Keeping the Faith.”
1985: Billy Joel marries Christie for the second time
Billy Joel and his first wife were divorced in 1982, only three years after they were wed. In 1985, Billy married Christie Brinkley again after dating for two years. The two were married on a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts. Christie was pregnant at the time of the wedding and gave birth to Alexa Ray Joel, their only child, in 1986. Billy Joel has three other children from previous relationships: daughters, Dina (born in 1977) and Ruth (born in 1982), and son, Conor (born in 1985).
1986: The Billy Joel Foundation is created
After touring and recording The Bridge album in 1986, Billy Joel discovered he had an untreatable form of spondylitis, an inflammation of the joints that causes severe back pain. Nevertheless, Billy was determined to continue touring and producing more music. The Billy Joel Foundation was created in 2000 to provide funds for arts education in New York City. The foundation also holds annual benefit concerts to provide the necessary funding.
1987: According to his wife, this was a dark period in Billy’s life
In 1987, Christie Brinkley’s modeling career took off, and she became a household name. The couple was soon separated, and Christie moved to California, away from Billy’s life in New York City. Billy Joel’s career was also going great at the time, which seemed to make matters worse between him and Christie. His record label wanted him to record another classical album, but he wanted to produce an album of pop music. The two were at a standstill until Billy’s record label let him produce an album of pop music. Billy Joel was so immersed in recording the album that he didn’t notice the effect this was having on his private life. According to Christie, this was a dark period in Billy’s life.
1990: After being out of the spotlight for a while, Billy returns with two new albums and a world tour
In 1990, after a seven-year break from the music scene, Billy Joel released the critically acclaimed Storm Front album. The album’s title track and lead single was released to a warm critical reception. The single peaked at number three on the Billboard Hot 100, making it Billy’s highest-charting single since 1982. Storm Front was followed by Billy’s second classical album, River of Dreams. Though Storm Front was a commercial success, River of Dreams failed to rank on any US album charts. In 1993, Billy embarked on a world tour in support of both albums. During the tour, he played to sold-out audiences in stadiums and arenas from the US to Europe.
2001-2004: Billy undergoes throat surgery and recovery
In 2001, Billy Joel underwent throat surgery to remove damaged cartilage from his vocal cords. The surgery was successful, but the road to recovery was long and arduous. Billy was advised by his doctors to take six months off from touring to let his vocal chords heal properly. Sadly, Billy’s management team told him that he would have to cancel the rest of his tour dates. The news was devastating to Billy, who had worked tirelessly to make his career a success. Billy overcame the odds and, after 13 months of intensive vocal therapy, he was able to perform again.
2005: 30th Anniversary of Piano Man
In 2005, it was 30 years since Billy Joel released his debut album, Piano Man. To celebrate this occasion, Billy released a compilation album, The Essential Billy Joel. This album contained two newly recorded tracks: “And So It Goes” and “My Lives.” The two tracks were included as a way for Billy to say thank you to his fans for their continued support throughout the years.