220px-BillyJoel_AnInnocentManBilly Joel – “The Longest Time” – (1983)

An Innocent Man might be my favorite Billy Joel album – mostly because it plays with doo-wop music on multiple hit singles, including this which only features two instruments (a bass and a drum played with a brush) and a bunch of layered vocals, all provided by Joel himself. Because of this, “The Longest Time” is popular among a cappella singers. But if you want to hear how good of a singer Billy Joel was back in the day, this is all you need.

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Billy_Joel_-_Piano_Man#1 – Billy Joel – “Piano Man” – (1973)

Man, could Billy Joel ever write some music. This is Joel’s signature song and he has become the Piano Man. It only reached #25 on the Hot 100, but it was his breakthrough hit and has become a legendary song that almost everyone knows some lyrics to. And the lyrics are brilliant, telling a complete story and setting a scene like few other songs can. It’s amazing. And yes, that album cover is kind of creepy.

bjstrange#5 – Billy Joel – “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” – (1977)

Man, listen to those opening bits of music. It has a fantastic, underrated groove to it. “Movin’ Out” was also the name of the Broadway play based around the songs of Billy Joel. And it’s one of his best songs. It’s rare to hear songs nowadays that actually tell a story, and Billy Joel was a master at it. This song is very New York, too – and if you don’t know what I mean, I’m afraid I can’t explain it any more than that.

USA for Africa – “We are the World” – (1985)

Charity singles. The U.K. goes crazy for them and has them all the time. It doesn’t work so well here in the U.S. Perhaps it’s because this track. I’m not sure. It’s definitely cheesy and a part of 1980s culture. This was a group of singers who came together to perform a song written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie and sell it to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The whole thing was inspired by Band Aid (from the U.K.). It ended up raising $100 million and selling over 20 million copies (impressive). Annoyingly, USA for Africa stands for “United Support of Artists for Africa” and that’s because a few of the artists weren’t American. Here’s everyone other than Jackson and Richie who were involved: Dan Aykroyd, Harry Belafonte, Lindsey Buckingham, Kim Carnes, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Sheila E., Bob Geldof (who was responsible for Band Aid), both Hall and Oates, James Ingram, Jackie Jackson, La Toya Jackson, Marlon Jackson, Randy Jackson (the one from the Jackson 5… not the one from American Idol), Tito Jackson, Al Jarreau, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper, Huey Lewis and the News (the whole band), Kenny Loggins, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, Jeffrey Osborne, Steve Perry, all three Pointer Sisters, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder. Yeah, pretty impressive. Look at how many of those people are respectable and/or legendary (many of them) and think about how that would play out today. Do we really need Bieber and Kesha and company coming together for charity? That’s the exact reason charity singles don’t work in the U.S. anymore. The current crop of North American are trash. Also: not how hilariously out of place Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan sound here.

Billy Joel – “Don’t Ask Me Why” – (1980)

“Don’t Ask Me Why” was the fourth single form Billy Joel’s huge 1980 album Glass Houses. It was a top 20 hit on the Hot 100, peaking at #19. One thing people often overlook about Billy Joel is that he dabbles in so many different styles. For instance, this song appears on a mostly rock-oriented album – but it is more folk-like (like his earlier music). But it also features a Latin paino solo and kind of a worldbeat backing track.

Billy Joel – “Pressure” – (1982)

Billy Joel was one of the kings of the 1980s. He released so many good songs. This happens to be a rather popular one. It was a top 20 hit on the Hot 100 and – coming out in the early-80s, used a synthesizer (which is weird as he is the Piano Man). This may not have been his biggest album ever, but it did produce a few memorable songs, this among them.

Billy Joel – “Keeping the Faith” – (1983)

Billy Joel popped out hit after hit in the 80s and “Keeping the Faith” was a Top 20 hit in 1984. An Innocent Man is a brilliant album that harkens back to a number of different musical styles from the 50s and 60s (we’ve already talked about “Uptown Girl”). The video for this song makes me think it’s supposed to be early-60s rock, but for whatever reason I just don’t hear it. But it’s still a pretty good song.

Billy Joel – “Tell Her About It” – (1983)

So is this album cover where Jerry Seinfeld picked out his haircut? From where I’m sitting (and the image is kind of small) Mr. Joel looks quite Seinfeld-ish. Billy Joel actually had quite interesting music videos… kind of elaborate-like. Rodney Dangerfield is in this one (another great comedian). This song was a #1 and it was Billy’s homage to Motown (but this is not his only Motown-influenced song). I think Billy Joel could still write songs like this – catchy pop tunes – if he wanted to. He needs to. Do it, Billy!

#59 – Billy Joel – “Uptown Girl” – (1983)

Just like Huey Lewis at #60, I again had a multitude of tracks to sift through and this one was a bit tougher. Of the 13 I considered from Billy Joel’s 1980s releases; I had to discard many of them for being run-of-the-mill (if you can even say that about most of those excellent songs). It came down to two of them. I chose “Uptown Girl” mainly because it’s my favorite Billy Joel song. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” was the other and I still feel bad for not including it. Those brilliant people at VH1, I believe, named it one of the Most Awful Songs ever or something and it certainly is not. I promise a breakdown of that song once this list is over. But “Uptown Girl” is the song we are talking about here and I believe that the reason I like it so much is that it is similar in many ways to songs from groups like the Four Seasons – with its doo-wop beat. Billy Joel really shows off his range here to singing high falsetto notes for much of the song. It’s good stuff.