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Top 10 Billy Joel Songs

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Craig Butler. Born May 9, 1949 in New York City, Billy Joel is a pianist and singer-songwriter that has achieved top 40 success from the 1970s to the 1990s. With multiple Grammy wins and over 150 million albums sold, the pop rock artist is also an American favorite and multitalented musician. For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Billy Joel songs. Special thanks to our users Brian Silva, iviege, Horacio Fernández, Alex Guzman, a25kaitlynrocks, richardbain, aldqbigsquare, jtuman, and Alex Uhl for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Craig Butler.

Top 10 Billy Joel Songs


He’s been making incredible pop songs for more than 40 years, but we still can’t get enough of them. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Billy Joel songs.

For this list, we’ve chosen our entries based on a combination of the artist’s fan favorites and their most commercially successful songs.

#10: “Uptown Girl”
An Innocent Man (1983)

A top 5 hit in both the U.S. and Canada, “Uptown Girl” is a breezy, infectious pop song that pays homage to the stylings of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Although Joel’s then-wife Christie Brinkley stars in the music video, the singer actually wrote the song while he was dating Elle Macpherson. It doesn’t matter which beauty inspired it; the result is still a beauty of a song.

#9: “Honesty”
52nd Street (1978)

Pensive and sorrowful aren’t words that are usually associated with pop songs, which may be why “Honesty” peaked at #24 in the U.S.; nevertheless, this sad, tender lament is a haunting evocation of the loneliness that every person experiences at some point or another. The spare accompaniment and shimmering melody perfectly offset some of Joel’s most adult lyrics.

#8: “You May Be Right”
Glass Houses (1980)

Joel’s 1980 Glass Houses album was something of a response to the new wave movement of the late 1970s, and “You May Be Right” is one of his hardest rocking singles. Joel lets loose vocally, with a rough edge to his singing that compliments the driving, insistent beat. More than a toe-tapper, the top 10 smash is an irresistible foot pounder and a track that’s been covered multiple times.

#7: “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”
Glass Houses (1980)

The rock world was undergoing a bit of an identity crisis in 1980, as punk and new wave challenged traditional heavy metal, hard rock and pop sounds. “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me” is Joel’s response, a pessimistic look at the music industry’s insistence on following the latest fad rather than concentrating on what matters: actual music. It caught on in a big way, becoming Joel’s first number one hit in the United States.

#6: “We Didn’t Start the Fire”
Storm Front (1989)

Joel has said that he once wanted to be a history teacher, and 1989’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” confirms he knows his stuff. The song is a catalogue of headline-making events from 1949, when Joel was born, to 1989, when the song was written. Sounds dull, but the propulsive beat and the rapid-fire delivery made this a monster hit – and deservedly so.

#5: “New York State of Mind”
Turnstiles (1976)

New York has inspired many songs, but few are as heartfelt as “New York State of Mind.” The song perfectly captures the relief of the ex-New Yorker who has returned to the place that feeds his soul. Although covered by numerous other artists, it’s Joel’s wistfully longing version that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

#4: “Just the Way You Are”
The Stranger (1977)

A love song for Joel’s first wife, “Just the Way You Are” became an instant sensation when released in 1977. It eventually won Grammys for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year and started Joel’s album The Stranger on the road to success. With its sensitive lyrics and gently caressing melody, it’s a gorgeous valentine of a song – and a perennial favorite at wedding receptions.

#3: “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”
The Stranger (1977)

At more than seven minutes, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” is one of Joel’s longest pieces – not surprising, as it’s really a three-song suite. An impressive achievement both musically and lyrically, the composition features some truly thrilling rock piano playing, tasty lyrics that both create atmosphere and delineate character, and a mastery of song structure. This is pop song-writing by a master.

#2: “Only the Good Die Young”
The Stranger (1977)

Its opening lyrics got this song banned from some radio stations in 1977, but its sheer vitality and spirit made “Only the Good Die Young” unstoppable. Young lust never sounded so appealing as it does here; Joel’s vocal is youthful and seductive, and the arrangement, from the handclaps to Richie Cannata’s squealingly sexy sax solo, is perfection. Few other records come close to nailing both the joy and the impatience of youth.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Captain Jack”
Piano Man (1973)
- “Vienna”
The Stranger (1977)
- “The River of Dreams”
River of Dreams (1993)
- “Big Shot”
52nd Street (1978)
- “She’s Always a Woman”
The Stranger (1977)

#1: “Piano Man”
Piano Man (1973)

Joel first made an impression with 1973’s “Piano Man,” and even with everything else he’s done since, it’s still arguably his best. The lyrics paint a picture of life at a piano bar that is so vivid you can practically smell the spilt beer. Joel’s piano is complimented by a mournful harmonica, and the accordion and mandolin enhance the flavor. Add in Joel’s captivating vocal, and you get a touching portrait of unfulfilled dreams that still manages a spark of optimism and joy.

Do you agree with our choices? What other outstanding Billy Joel songs should we have put on this list? For more enthralling top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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