A Few of My Favorite Things, #4: Billy Joel

The music of Billy Joel was one of the staples of my parents’ (limited) collection of cassettes and CDs, and thus it had a huge influence on my own musical tastes. I grew up listening to “The Ballad of Billy the Kid,” “Say Goodbye to Hollywood,” and (of course) “Piano Man.”

I can’t really pick a favorite Billy Joel song, but a few that I listen to most often are “Summer, Highland Falls,” “The Longest Time,” and “Two Thousand Years.”

There’s a verse in “You’re My Home” that makes me feel like the song was practically written about me, since it lists three places I know quite well, that have all been home to me: “Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike / Indiana’s early morning dew / High up in the hills of California / Home is just another word for you.”

My favorite song about New York City is actually not the more obvious “New York State of Mind” but rather “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway).” This is maybe an unusual favorite, since it’s about a fictional apocalyptic disaster that destroys New York, but the song captures the spirit of the city—New Yorkers do not go down quietly.

And I think I’ve mentioned here before that I know all the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Yeah…that didn’t happen on purpose. I just heard it enough times that I found I could sing it all. When I saw Billy Joel in concert in 2008 (which was great, by the way), I thought it was wonderful/hilarious that when he played this song, he accompanied it with a glorified PowerPoint displaying photos of all the things he mentioned. (Joe McCarthy! Richard Nixon! Studebaker! Television! North Korea! South Korea! Marilyn Monroe!)

Also: in my second grade play, which was a loosely-based modern adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, we performed “The River of Dreams.” My role in the play was—not kidding—Friendless Stranger. I suppose it was an improvement from Stick Seller in my kindergarten play (a version of The Three Little Pigs).


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