If you’ve been waiting for the longest time for the ultimate Billy Joel playlist, then you are in the right place. The “Piano Man” himself has sung many songs in his career, but let it be known that he was not the one who started the fire. Check out this playlist with 30 of Joel’s best songs in honor of him turning 74 on May 9.
“Piano Man” (1973)
Easily the most iconic Joel song is “Piano Man,” and it is a certifiable classic that fits almost any situation. The perfect mix of sadness and euphoria, “Piano Man” takes the listener through several fascinating characters that frequent a bar, from John the bartender to Davy, who is in the Navy. Although some may say it has been overplayed, the motif of loneliness in “Piano Man” still rings true today, and it is a great song to sing aloud, no matter the occasion.
“Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (1977)
Less well known than “Piano Man,” this song likewise takes the listener on a journey through the life of Brenda and Eddie, high school sweethearts who face tougher times as they grow older. Clocking in at over seven minutes, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is a great example of Joel’s storytelling abilities through song, not to mention the incredibly catchy tune that captures the essence of the classic Italian-American restaurant.
“The Longest Time” (1983)
A common theme in Joel’s work is romance, and “The Longest Time” captures the excitement of a new romance, even when one has been out of the game for a while. This is another one of Joel’s songs that is best when sung along to as the lyrics are easy to learn and the chorus has cemented its place in popular culture.
“Goodnight Saigon” (1987)
Although Joel himself did not fight in the Vietnam War, he based this song on the experiences of his friends who did fight in the war, and the song perfectly captures the terrifying nature of the war. “Goodnight Saigon” is certainly a sad song and it may not be as popular as some of his other works, but it is an important and well-produced song that takes the listener on a tragic journey.
“Uptown Girl” (1983)
Another one of Joel’s most iconic hits is “Uptown Girl,” which like “The Longest Time,” describes the excitement and passion of romance. The music video is likewise iconic, with Joel starring as the main character and his ex-wife Christie Brinkley starring as the eponymous uptown girl, the subject of the song.
“My Life” (1978)
“My Life” is not one of Joel’s most well-known tracks, but it is one of his most real and vulnerable songs as he tells the listener and his critics that he does not care what they think of him. It’s an empowering message, that validation comes from within, and it is a nice divergence from Joel’s usual songs primarily about romance.
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” (1989)
“We Didn’t Start the Fire” might be the most famous and complete list of all the historical events and important figures of the second half of the 20th century, from Joe McCarthy to “Wheel of Fortune.” This song is another one to sing along to and has a surprisingly upbeat tune for a song about all of the problems the world was facing.
“Just the Way You Are” (1977)
Back to the theme of romance, “Just the Way You Are” is an incredibly sweet song where Joel sings of encouraging his lover not to change and that they are amazing just the way they are. Not to be confused with the song of the same name by Bruno Mars, “Just the Way You Are” is one of Joel’s quieter songs, yet its beautiful message shines through.
“She’s Always a Woman” (1977)
Like “Just the Way You Are,” “She’s Always a Woman” is about Joel loving a woman, including both her strengths and weaknesses. The song is about Joel’s ex-wife Elizabeth Weber who helped sort out his financial affairs and the lyrics of the song describe a strong woman who is not afraid to break traditional gender stereotypes.
Along with “Just the Way You Are” and “She’s Always a Woman,” “Vienna” debuted in 1977 in Joel’s album “The Stranger.” This song is one of Joel’s sadder tracks as although the lyrics describe how Vienna is waiting for Joel, the slow and methodical tune along with the melancholy melody create a bittersweet anthem of the inevitability of life.
Check out the full playlist here