Sunday, November 30, 2014

Billy Joel The Definitive Biography by Fred Schruers

Billy Joel - The Definitive Biography by Fred Schruers
I have been a Billy Joel fan for as long as I can remember.  The very first experience I can recall with the Piano Man was when I asked my sister to play a song off of the LP version of Glass Houses she had when I was a child.  I said "play that music on the blue record with the guy that looks like Rocky."  That cracked everybody up, but in my defense with his blue jeans, leather jacket and helmet hair he did kind of look like Sylvester Stallone especially since Rocky was in nearly constant play on HBO when I was five and the album debuted.  Since then I have wanted to listen to Billy Joel's songs over and over again.  It was really saying something when my Chipmunk Punk album had a cover of "You May Be Right" and I said "this just doesn't compare to the real thing".  Even in the first grade I knew what was up, and I knew this man would create the soundtrack of my life.

Billy Joel truly has a song for every occasion.  Every twist and turn I've encountered on the road of life has a song created by this troubadour that I've listened to while rounding the bend.  The breakups and heartache, the doubts that any of this had any real meaning, and the pure celebration of the joyous moments have all been put to a soundtrack by this man, so I had hoped his biography would shed light on some of the many moments of clarity and comfort he'd given me through his songs and I was not disappointed.

Fred Schruers was a wonderful choice to write this book.  As a writer for Rolling Stone he has captured the essence of many musical artists and shaped their stories with a knack for writing in the subject's voice while adding the backing stories that truly define the artist's work.  Mr. Schruers was able to interview many of the key players in Billy Joel's past and add their opinions and memories to round out the stories of him as an entertainer, artist, husband and father.  I also have the feeling that the author is a fan of Mr. Joel's himself which made the book feel like it was written by one of Billy's friends and supporters.  While he doesn't shy away from the troubles and sadness the artist has experienced, you get the feeling that the author is rooting him on and I loved that about the book.

I learned a great many things about Billy Joel that I had never known.  I was stunned to find the song "A Time to Remember" was written about Elle MacPherson, who he had dated prior to Christie Brinkley.  There were also tons of other instances in which songs I have loved for years suddenly took on new meaning when I realized who they had been written for.  "Why, Judy Why?" is one of my favorites and learning that it was being sung to his cousin Judy who he was raised with and considers his sister caused me to listen to and experience the song again as if it were the first time.  There were so many instances when I found myself remarking out loud in wonder on all the events of Billy Joel's extraordinary life as a songwriter and musician that I was sad to have the book end.  I am sure that Billy Joel's current historic run at Madison Square Garden would make an exciting new chapter in the artist's life.  I can't wait to hear his music discovered and enjoyed by future generations.  In the last pages of the book, Billy expresses the hope that his music will survive in some way and have an impact on the time he has lived making it.  I wonder if he knows how many people like me are out there.  Ones who are deeply moved and touched through his tremendous contributions to American music.  His music has certainly helped pull me out of depression and helped me find meaning and hope in the middle of sadness.  It has given me great joy, made me dance and helped me cry.  I will always cherish his songs and music.

A thank you is in order to the good folks at Blogging For Books who provided me with my copy and who made this review possible.  I am thrilled to review for this program and even more excited that a book would come to me with a subject so close to my heart.  Thank you.

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