Throughout all of history many musicians have left an everlasting mark on the music industry. Bob Dylan revolutionized the folk music scene, The Beatles brought upon the British invasion, and Led Zeppelin ushered in the rocking sounds of the 1970’s. Many of these artists started out in garage bands and received little to no public response when they were introduced to the public. The same can be said for Billy Joel when he released his first studio album, Cold Spring Harbor. The album was flanked with recording issues and went unnoticed, but when Joel released The Stranger in 1977 it proved to be his masterpiece.
In 1977, Billy Joel had four albums with multiple singles released alongside them. A few of these hits included, Piano Man, The Entertainer, and Miami 2017 (Seen The Lights Go Out On Broadway). Even though these songs proved to be big hits for Joel, it seemed that these were the only songs he was known for. When Joel paired up with Phil Ramone through Columbia Records it was a large breakthrough for Joel. Under Ramone, Joel released possibly his most successful album, The Stranger.
The Stranger was a nine track LP consisting of four of the songs being released as singles. Songwriting on the album began as short musical tunes and fragments, this helped to create one of the more popular songs on the album, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant. Joel also took the approach of making all of the songs on the album narrative, therefore each song tells its own unique story. For the theme of the album (the song) The Stranger, Joel decided to whistle the notes instead of using an instrument, this proved to be a catchy tune that people would be whistling for decades to come.
All of the album’s singles were very successful on the Billboard Hot 100. “Just The Way You Are,” landed at #3, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” came in at #17, and “Only The Good Die Young,” came in at #24. Very soon Joel became a staple of the Soft Rock emanating from the New York music scene. In the US, the album went Diamond selling over 10,000,000 units, which helped make The Stranger the “Album of the Year” and Just The Way You Are the “Song of the Year.” The album also overtook Simon and Garfunkel’s, Bridge Over Troubled Water to become the best selling album released by Columbia Records.
Throughout the years Billy Joel became a staple for Classic Rock, Adult Contemporary, and music for any bar (Piano Man). Recently movies such as The Wolf Of Wall Street, have used tracks from Joel’s The Stranger as parts of the soundtrack. This recent use of the songs have spiked interest in Joel as a singer and performer, and in the albums he has produced. As the interest in Billy Joel rises people need to understand how the singer has struggled with alcoholic addiction and depression, but Joel takes these experiences and compiles them into the beautiful songs of The Stranger.