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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Sing us a song tonight"

Chamber Music Magazine: The Piano Man gives back (June, 2007)

"Composer Laura Kaminsky was looking for scholarship money. She has started in 2004 as dean of the Conservatory of Music at Purchase College, part of the State University of New York, and soon identified some specialized area that needed funds that could not come out of a state budget. Chief among them: a graduate string quartet-in-residence. Help was on its way. "Out of the blue, we got a phone call," Kaminsky reports. "The man told us he was representing a distinguished person in the entertainment field who had selected a number of musical institutions for grants of approximately a quarter-million each. The net result: This fall, the young iO quartet came to Purchase as its first Billy Joel String Quartet in Residence."

Billy Joel, who is not motivated to write pop songs, despite his current single, performed around here recently, giving his fans what they came for; the preview story is here.

What brought this to mind is a book somebody gave me some years ago - it has a 1991 copyright - about the worst songs, the worst albums, and the worst rock and roll performers. At #1, worse than Paul McCartney, who was a runner-up, was Billy Joel.

I don't buy it.

I saw Billy Joel back in 1973 or 1974, in the gym at my college, SUNY New Paltz. The band got lost somewhere between Long Island and our upstate town right on the Thruway and the concert started over two hours late. He was stiff and was practically glued to his piano stool. But somewhere along the line, he became, well, "The Entertainer", putting lots of personality into his performances. I have a handful of Joel albums, including one of the first CDs I ever bought, his greatest hits volumes 1 & 2.

Oh, BTW, Billy Joel is 58 today.



Scott said...

Surprised that Billy Joel would be first. Surprised that Paul McCartney was runner-up. What dimwit compiled that list?

I saw Joel live during his "Storm Front" tour and thought the concert was very entertaining. Sure, some of his songs still don't hold up as well today as they did when released, but he is good at what he does.

Greg said...

Hey! I have that book! It's very funny. I do like Billy Joel a lot, but the authors were making the point that he doesn't "rock out" very well - he's perfectly capable as a piano bar kind of crooner, but when he sings "You May Be Right," he's no good. I disagree, but that's what they were saying.

Tosy And Cosh said...

I LOVE that book!! Not because I agree with it all the time, but because it's pretty onsistent about offering logical, defensible reasons for its picks. And the charge that Joel fails completely as a ROCK artist is one that works for me. As a songwriter and melodist and storyteller, he's great. But as a writer/performer of rock music? Not so much.

Chris Black said...

I rate Billy Joel pretty highly.

When my wife came over from Russia, she was already a big fan of his - her favourite song being "Honesty"