Billy Joel Favorites: Volume 2 Songbook

The Billy Joel Favorites: Volume 2 collection features ten piano solo arrangements for intermediates and up by Jennifer Eklund. Includes favorites like, "Honesty," "Just the Way You Are," "My Life," and "New York State of Mind."

This post is part three of the Billy Joel Favorites Songbook Series.
Billy Joel Favorites: Volume 2 Songbook

🎹 About Billy Joel

Billy Joel is a renowned American singer-songwriter and pianist who gained immense success and recognition for his versatile musical talents. Born in 1949, Joel’s career spans decades and encompasses various genres, from rock and pop to ballads and even classical compositions. He rose to prominence in the 1970s with hits like “Piano Man,” showcasing his piano skills and distinctive voice. Throughout the 1980s, he produced an array of chart-topping albums and singles, including “Uptown Girl,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “Tell Her About It.” His ability to craft relatable lyrics and memorable melodies endeared him to audiences around the world.

In addition to his commercial success, Joel’s career is marked by accolades and achievements. He’s won multiple Grammy Awards and is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. His album “52nd Street” even received the prestigious Grammy for Album of the Year. Beyond his pop hits, Joel’s works have delved into more serious themes, showcasing his songwriting depth. He also achieved remarkable success with his live performances, particularly his historic concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Joel’s enduring influence and legacy as a prolific songwriter, pianist, and performer have solidified his place as an iconic figure in the music industry.

🎶 Billy Joel Favorites: Volume 2 Songbook

The following songs are included in the Billy Joel Favorites: Volume 2 songbook. These are all available as separate singles, but you get the most value by purchasing the whole collection. All of these arrangements are appropriate for intermediates and up.

  1. And So It Goes
  2. Honesty
  3. It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me
  4. James
  5. Just the Way You Are
  6. My Life
  7. New York State of Mind
  8. Temptation
  9. The Stranger
  10. Vienna

🎹 Watch a performance of the entire volume:

Let’s dive deeper with some more details about a few of my personal favorites from Billy Joel Favorites: Volume 2!

“The Stranger” (1977)

A live performance from New York City’s Carnegie Hall in 1977.

Billy Joel’s song “The Stranger"" is a track from his fifth studio album of the same name, released in 1977. The album is widely regarded as one of his best works and includes some of his most well-known songs. “The Stranger” is the title track and serves as the opening track for the album.

“The Stranger” is a rock song with elements of pop and jazz influences, which were characteristic of Billy Joel’s musical style. The song’s lyrics explore themes of identity, relationships, and the idea that people can be like strangers to each other even in intimate situations. It touches on the complexities of human interaction and the challenges of truly knowing and understanding someone else. The song’s inspiration comes from Carl Jung’s concept of “The Shadow” archetype in psychology.

The song begins and ends with a soft melody played on the piano and whistled by Joel himself, accompanied by his band. Originally, Joel intended this melody to be played by a wind instrument, but producer Phil Ramone convinced him to whistle it for the final version. The song features Billy Joel’s signature piano playing, accompanied by a strong band arrangement and his distinctive vocals.

The album itself received critical acclaim and commercial success, becoming one of Joel’s best-selling records. It produced several hit singles, including “Just the Way You Are,” “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” and “Only the Good Die Young.”

“The Stranger” album marked a pivotal point in Billy Joel’s career, solidifying his status as a prominent singer-songwriter of the 1970s and beyond. The album’s blend of rock, pop, and jazz influences, along with Joel’s introspective and relatable lyrics, contributed to its enduring popularity and influence.

“My Life” (1978)

Don’t be confused—The video starts with the opening of his song “Stiletto” and it’s very confusing!

“My Life” is a song by Billy Joel from his 1978 album “52nd Street.” It reached No. 2 on the U.S. adult contemporary chart and peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song’s musical structure features drums, electric bass, and a piano intro, followed by a keyboard riff that recurs throughout the song. The song’s arrangement includes sections like intro, verse, fill, chorus, bridge, solo, and outro.

Backing vocals during the bridge and outro were performed by Chicago members Peter Cetera and Donnie Dacus. “My Life” was used as the theme song for the TV series “Bosom Buddies” (1980–82) in a re-recorded version with a different vocalist.

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” (1980)

A witty and timely track in its time:

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” is a song written and performed by Billy Joel, featured on his album “Glass Houses.” Released in 1980, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for two weeks, from July 19 through August 1, 1980. It spent a total of 11 weeks in the top 10 and ranked as the 7th biggest hit of 1980 according to American Top 40.

The song serves as Joel’s response to critics who labeled his music as adult contemporary, and it addresses the changing musical landscape of the time, particularly the emergence of new wave music. Joel critiques the perception that these new styles were simply rehashes of older genres.

The lyrics reference the “miracle mile,” which alludes to a road with many stores in Manhasset and Great Neck on Long Island. Mention of whitewall tires and new speakers is a nod to specific locations from Joel’s childhood area. The song’s criticism of new wave music and its commentary on the rock scene’s evolution garnered attention.

Reviewers at the time praised the song’s witty lyrics, sharp vocal delivery, and the inclusion of a spirited saxophone break. Some found the song a humorous take on the changing musical landscape, while others commented on its energetic yet straightforward style. Despite mixed opinions, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” became a hit, holding its place as one of Billy Joel’s well-known songs.

“And So It Goes” (1982)

A sentimental favorite from the (IMO) underrated “Storm Front” album.

“And So It Goes” is a song written by Billy Joel in 1983, though it was not released until six years later. It appeared as the tenth and final track of his 1989 studio album Storm Front. The original 1983 demo was released on the 2005 box set My Lives. Joel wrote the song about a doomed relationship with model Elle Macpherson. Due to their 16-year age difference, their relationship was dramatic. In 1983, Macpherson was about 19 years old while Joel was around 34. Joel dated Macpherson for only a brief time, and shortly after became involved with model Christie Brinkley. She ultimately became his second wife in 1985.

The song was inspired by the Scottish ballad “Barbara Allen”, and is unique for Joel as it is written in iambic tetrameter. In the original demo version of “And So It Goes,” Joel sings the melody simply, accompanied by a simple piano backdrop, in a style very reminiscent of a hymn. On the 1989 album version, Joel sings and plays all the instrumentation (piano and synthesizers). The official video is from a live performance in front of a concert audience.

🤔 Looking for more Billy Joel Songbooks? We’ve got you covered!

👋 Do you have a favorite Billy Joel tune? We’d love to hear about it!

Jennifer Eklund
Written by Jennifer Eklund
Jennifer Eklund holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in music from California State University, Long Beach. She is an avid arranger, composer, and author of the Piano Pronto® method books series as well as a wide variety of supplemental songbooks. She is also a Signature Artist with with a large catalog of popular music titles for musicians of all levels.


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