William Martin “Billy” Joel is an American musician and pianist, singer-songwriter, and classical composer. Since releasing his first hit song, “Piano Man”, in 1973, Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, according to the RIAA.
Joel had Top 40 hits in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; he’s piled up 33 Top 40 hits in the United States, all of which he wrote singlehandedly. He is also a six-time Grammy Award winner, a 23-time Grammy nominee and has sold over 100 million records worldwide. He was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. Joel “retired” from recording pop music in 1993 but continues to tour. In 2001, he released Fantasies & Delusions, a CD of classical compositions for piano. In 2007, he briefly returned to pop songwriting and recording with a single entitled “All My Life” ? written for his third wife Katie Lee Joel. In September 2007, Joel wrote “Christmas in Fallujah,” a tribute to soldiers and a grim depiction of war. The song was recorded by Cass Dillon and subsequently by Joel himself in a December 2008 live version that was released only in Australia. Joel returned to touring in 2006 after a three-year hiatus from the road and has toured extensively ever since, covering many major world cities. In March 2009, Joel resumed his popular Face to Face tour with fellow pianist Elton John. The tour ended in March 2010 and there are currently no more dates scheduled, although Joel, who has stated a desire to take the rest of 2010 off, told Rolling Stone magazine: “We?ll probably pick it up again. It?s always fun playing with him.”
Joel was born in The Bronx, New York and raised in the Levittown section of Hicksville, New York. His father, Howard, was born in Germany as the son of German-Jewish merchant and manufacturer Karl Amson Joel who after the advent of the Nazi regime emigrated to Switzerland and later to the United States. Billy Joel’s mother, Rosalind Nyman, was born in England to a Jewish family. His parents divorced in 1960, and his father moved to Vienna, Austria. Billy has a sister, Judith Joel, and a half-brother, Alexander Joel, who is an acclaimed classical conductor in Europe, currently chief musical director of the Staatstheater Braunschweig.
Joel’s father was an accomplished classical pianist. Billy reluctantly began piano lessons at an early age, at his mother’s insistence; his teachers included the noted American pianist Morton Estrin and musician/songwriter Timothy Ford. His interest in music, rather than sports, was a source of teasing and bullying in his early years. As a teenager, Joel took up boxing so that he would be able to defend himself. He boxed successfully on the amateur Golden Gloves circuit for a short time, winning twenty-two bouts, but abandoned the sport shortly after having his nose broken in his twenty-fourth boxing match.