*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant at the University Archives and Special Collections.
In today’s edition of Guess Who Performed in Evansville, we are leaving the country music scene and moving into the 1970’s and 1980’s pop scene. We have three clues for you: can you guess who he is?
- Throughout his career, he has had 33 Top 40 hits.
- He was married to supermodel, Christine Brinkley.
- His nickname is “Piano Man”.
The musician is Billy Joel.
Joel was born on May 9, 1949, in Bronx, New York. His musical career began when he was four years old: he started taking piano lessons, primarily focusing in classical music. When he was a teenager, the Beatles had invaded the United States and he began to play for rock bands. By 1971, he finally released his first album, “Cold Spring Harbor”. It wasn’t until 1973 when he released his best-known song, Piano Man, later becoming his nickname. Through the 1970’s, Joel released four albums and won two Grammy Awards in 1979 for “Just the Way You Are” for Album of the Year and Record and the Year. As the 1980’s approached, his career would continue to go strong!
In 1980, Joel won two more Grammy’s for “52nd Street” for Album of the Year and Male Pop Vocal Performance. That wasn’t all Joel was going to do: he won one more Grammy in 1981. He made history in 1987 when he became the first American music entertainer to perform a rock concert in the Soviet Union (he would perform five concerts in the USSR). By the 1990’s, Joel’s career was slowing down, but produced one more album in 1993 and performing concerts all over the world. Joel would be awarded numerous lifetime achievement awards, inductions into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1992), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), and Kennedy Center Performing Arts Award (2013), and won the Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song (2013).
Billy Joel performed at Roberts Stadium in Evansville early on in his career. His concert was on April 24, 1979. He performed for two hours in front of a packed crowd, singing Piano Man, Stiletto, Just the Way You Are, Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die, just to name a few. When Joel sang Let and Let Die. He had fun with the audience when he performed Live and Let Die by saying to the audience, “This isn’t my song, is it?” The audience replied, “No!” with Joel then saying, “I don’t care!” (Graham, 1979). The concert was successful and “Joel proved himself to be an exciting performer and a true talent” (Hibbs, 1979).
For more information, the Greg Smith collection at the University Archives and Special Collections at the David L. Rice Library at the University of Southern Indiana has over 1,500 photographs of Evansville history available online. Take a moment to explore his photographs of athletic events, local businesses, and many more. Stay tuned for our next addition of Guess Who Performed in Evansville.
Billy Joel biography. (n.d.). Billy Joel biography. Retrieved April 8, 2020, from https://www.billyjoel.com/biography/
CNN. (2019, May 2). Billy Joel fast facts. Retrieved on April 8, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2015/09/28/us/billy-joel-fast-facts/index.html
Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019, May 5). Billy Joel. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Billy-Joel
Graham, R. (1979, April 25). Billy Joel: Tough and tender. The Evansville Press. https://bit.ly/34mGqVw
Hibbs, M. P. (1979, April 25). Tireless Billy Joel makes it seem easy. The Evansville Courier. https://bit.ly/39MOcsU