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Publisher's Summary

The long-awaited, all-access biography of a music legend

In Billy Joel, acclaimed music journalist Fred Schruers draws upon more than 100 hours of exclusive interviews with Joel to present an unprecedented look at the life, career, and legacy of the pint-sized kid from Long Island who became a rock icon.

Exhibiting unparalleled intimate knowledge, Schruers chronicles Joel’s rise to the top of the charts, from his working-class origins in Levittown and early days spent in boxing rings and sweaty clubs to his monumental success in the '70s and '80s. He also explores Joel's creative transformation in the '90s, his dream performance with Paul McCartney at Shea Stadium in 2008, and beyond.

Along the way, Schruers reveals the stories behind all the key events and relationships - including Joel’s high-profile marriages and legal battles - that defined his path to stardom and inspired his signature songs, such as "Piano Man", "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", "New York State of Mind", and "She’s Always a Woman". Throughout, he captures the spirit of a restless artist determined to break through by sharing, in his deeply personal lyrics, the dreams and heartbreaks of suburban American life.

Comprehensive, vibrantly written, and filled with Joel's memories and reflections - as well as those of the family, friends, and band members who have formed his inner circle, including Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray Joel, Jon Small, and Steve Cohen - this is the definitive account of a beloved rock star’s epic American journey.

©2014 Fred Schruers (P)2014 Billy Joel

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great for any Joel fan

If you are a Billy Joel fan, this is spectacular! I thoroughly enjoyed it and even thought the narrator sounded a little like him at times.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Scott
  • Scarborough, ON, Canada
  • 11-01-14

Fawning but likeable bio

What did you like best about Billy Joel? What did you like least?

This bio has much to love and hate, which seems to mirror the often dichotomous opinion people (or music critics) have of the Piano Man. Schruers covers all the bases of Joel's life from his ancestors hegira from Nazi Germany, to his early days on Long Island, through pop stardom and later touring years. As might be expected from Schruers somewhat abbreviated treatment, each episode is covered in an almost cursory way with little time for in depth exploration of Joel's musical influences, cultural context, or critical interpretation. The hits, loves, tribulations, drug and alcohol abuse just breeze by and readers hoping for critical analysis or even behind the scenes details may come away disappointed. Nevertheless, Billy Joel has its pluses. Schruers notes in his sources the hundred+ hours of interviews and access Joel gave him; add to this the interviews with others in Joel's entourage plus voluminous research and what you get is a book that brims with quotes for every occasion that often illuminates Joel's personality and humor. But therein also lies the problem. One gets the sense that this is less a biography than ghostwritten autobiography and Schruers' access may have come at the price of a reluctance to delve with any depth or criticism into the darker aspects of Joel's life. The end result is a sympathetic, almost fawning bio that will neither offend nor illuminate but should appeal to those interested in a quick, breezy read and whose curiosity about the Piano Man would be satisfied with a Joel on Joel treatment.

What about Kirk Thornton’s performance did you like?

I quite enjoyed the narration, particularly Thornton's stabs at imitating Elton John, Keith Richards and other musicians. That aside, the narration is jaunty and befits the material.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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The reason I play piano

Would you try another book from Fred Schruers and/or Kirk Thornton?

Probably not, the voice of Billy Joel and others were just not believable

Would you recommend Billy Joel to your friends? Why or why not?

No, because of the narration

How could the performance have been better?

Better voice for Billy Joel specifically

Could you see Billy Joel being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

No... but if they did they would hire someone who is an addict in denial..Maybe Charlie Sheen.

Any additional comments?

Man, Oh Man was I disappointed in Billy Joel...my hero who was the reason I started playing piano is an ass who needs to get serious about recovery..He seems to be his own God, and as a God, what a let down...He's got serious problems with drinking, and women less than half his age....To me this goes to show what kind of human he is...He may be a master songwriter and musician but as a human being he is an egomaniac

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Interesting.

The reader did a pretty good job except for his Billy Joel interpretation ....it made Billy Joel sound like an fool or a poor impersonation of a New York accent...it was not meant to be like that I am sure but it was annoying. The book was indeed in depth and covered his entire life thus far and that was interesting. The readers performance otherwise was good. If you are a fan of Billy Joel's it covered all the bases good, bad and indifferent.

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Fantastic

The narrator did a fantastic job. His subtle voice changes really brought Billy's story to life.

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    5 out of 5 stars

Huge fan of Billy but not so much the narrator

What made the experience of listening to Billy Joel the most enjoyable?

I have been a huge fan of Billy Joel since I was in high school and we studied his songs for our poetry unit. I love his music and really enjoyed learning about his life.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Billy Joel?

I really enjoyed the musical interludes in the book. Hearing the stories behind the songs were fabulous.

What didn’t you like about Kirk Thornton’s performance?

For me, it felt like the narrator was trying to hard to sound like Billy Joel. It was distracting to me. I would have given this five + stars if it had been narrated by Billy himself!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

The Life and Times of Billy the Kid

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

It' s Ok but not what I expected

Pros - I liked hearing about information regarding Billy as like most artists, they have an interesting story to tell. There were some good stories regarding his relationships that included Paul McCartney and Elton John.

Cons- It was hard listening to the narrator. He was doing character impressions which I found hard to listen to. If you tell me that you're quoting a female I do not need to hear your voice go up two octaves when quoting them. The last two memoirs I listen to were read by the artists (Rick Springfield and Heart) and were fantastic.

Overall, I would recommend this book.

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fantastic!

loved it. very in depth. great story. the fact that Billy Joel himself assisted the author/narrator is impressive.

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Very interesting and informative bio of the Piano Man

I learned a lot about the life and influences on Billy Joel's remarkable catalog. As a lifelong fan, I don't think I'll be able to listen to his music without remembering the context in which it was created from now on.

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Great book about a music legend!

Although I grew up listening to Billy Joel music I really had no idea what he of his family had endured. I listened non- stop and plan on re-listening again soon.

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  • kegsy0
  • 06-15-15

A must for Billy Joel fans

I really enjoyed some of the insights into the world of Billy Joel. Great story and narration.

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  • Annaliesa Rose
  • 08-01-17

Brilliant storytelling

Thankyou for such a brilliant account of Billy Joel's life. It was very interesting and insightful.