Despite Billy Joel’s long and successful career, his numerous top ten hits and best-selling albums, if you’re asked to think of one of his songs the first that usually comes to mind is “Piano Man.” It peaked at number 25 on the Billboard Top 100.
But it really is a great song. Joel had recorded an album that tanked, and was trying to get out of his contract to sign with Columbia Records. In the meantime, he took a job as a bar singer, and “Piano Man” came from that experience. Joel says all the characters in the song (John the bartender, Paul the real estate novelist, Davy in the Navy, and the waitress practicing politics) are all based either on bar patrons or on people he knew.
The song was featured on Joel’s first album for Columbia, appropriately titled Piano Man. It made the list of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time… at number 421. Man, what are you doing here?