The child of working-class Jewish immigrants and raised in Levittown, Long Island, Billy Joel sings about the pleasures of the American Everyman: Italian restaurants, cold beer in the shade. He identifies with underdog outlaws like Billy the Kid and the wild boys crazy enough to ride their motorcycles in the rain. His stage persona is a distillation of his roots, and he has only performed under variations of his own name, William Martin Joel.
This should not suggest that Billy Joel is not a showman. It takes talent to write about everyday problems with a down-to-earth perspective, projecting the image of an average Joe Schmoe while racking up chart-topping hits, playing to thousands of adoring fans, and marrying a supermodel. Perhaps it is only possible because Joel has trouble believing in himself as a superstar, feeling a bit puzzled by all the praise, since in his mirror he still just sees “that same old someone.”
Lately Joel has returned to his early classical training; in 2008 he debuted “Waltz #2: Stairway Hall” with the Philadelphia Orchestra.