Billy Joel: Just the Way You Are

By: David B.

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I believe I’m the person I am today because of Billy Joel.

Male teenagers are often boxed into the expectation of listening only to rap, as if only vulgar lyrics and lack of melody will keep their attention. Because of this, I found myself reluctant to share my affinity for Billy Joel. However, with the help of the Piano Man, I was able to transcend this by discovering a simple idea: the people worthy of your attention will take you just the way you are, so it’s imperative to follow what you love.

In accordance with this concept, Billy Joel’s music complements and enhances my personality, allowing me to be myself, unconcerned with the scrutiny of others. His songs also provide a tie to specific memories and emotions I’ve experienced, which all help to define the person I am today.

One day after class, while treading through the drudgery of my daily routine, I found myself unable to absorb the Colorado sunshine. When I put my headphones in and Billy Joel’s cheesy but undeniably catchy vocals of “Uptown Girl” filled my ears, the complexion of my day made a 180 degree shift as my inclination to start dancing down the sidewalk multiplied tenfold. Sure, one probably doesn’t normally associate “Uptown Girl” with a college male who is often expected to be melodically illiterate. But it is precisely for that reason that Billy Joel allows me to be me; to ignore expectations and to do what brings me happiness without wallowing in the judgement of others.

Billy Joel also acts uniquely for me in terms of memories or definitive feelings that a particular song of his may rekindle. When I hear the simple piano intro from Billy Joel’s “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” I am suddenly swept back up into the brick expanse of my junior high gym, the scene of my 9th grade talent show. There we stood, my curly haired best friend and I, adorned with polo shirts and khaki shorts, in front of a thousand judging classmates. As I attempted to emulate the fluid vocals that Billy Joel so effortlessly produced, I couldn’t help but notice the skeptical expressions sweeping rapidly across the faces of the 8th grade girls sitting in front of me. By the time I reached my well-prepared clarinet solo, it was clear that the majority of my classmates didn’t understand or relate to our performance, likely due to Billy Joel’s lyrics about wine preference. This however had no effect on me, my love for Billy Joel and the music we were playing overshadowed everything else.

As I look back upon these specific experiences, the duality of Billy Joel’s songs presents itself quite clearly. His balladic, slower songs correspond with my reminiscence upon certain moments that have helped to shape who I’ve become, and the upbeat, optimistic songs remind me that despite how corny or unaccepted they may be by the current standard, I’ll follow them whole heartedly because I love them just the way they are.