Sunday, November 29, 2015

Billy Joel

Book 30 of my 2015 Reading Challenge
read from April 9 - June 17

I received a copy of this book via Blogging for Books and would like to thank the author and/or publisher for the opportunity to read and honestly review it.

Billy Joel by Fred Schruers

Summary (via Goodreads)
In Billy Joel, acclaimed music journalist Fred Schruers draws upon more than one hundred hours of exclusive interviews with Joel to present an unprecedented look at the life, career, and legacy of the pint-sized kid from Long Island who became a rock icon.
Exhibiting unparalleled intimate knowledge, Schruers chronicles Joel’s rise to the top of the charts, from his working-class origins in Levittown and early days spent in boxing rings and sweaty clubs to his monumental success in the seventies and eighties. He also explores Joel’s creative transformation in the nineties, his dream performance with Paul McCartney at Shea Stadium in 2008, and beyond.
Along the way, Schruers reveals the stories behind all the key events and relationships—including Joel’s high-profile marriages and legal battles—that defined his path to stardom and inspired his signature songs, such as “Piano Man,” “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” “New York State of Mind,” and “She’s Always a Woman.” Throughout, he captures the spirit of a restless artist determined to break through by sharing, in his deeply personal lyrics, the dreams and heartbreaks of suburban American life.
Comprehensive, vibrantly written, and filled with Joel’s memories and reflections—as well as those of the family, friends, and band members who have formed his inner circle, including Christie Brinkley, Alexa Ray Joel, Jon Small, and Steve Cohen—this is the definitive account of a beloved rock star’s epic American journey.

My Opinion
There were some rumors I'd heard after receiving this book about Billy Joel stopping his cooperation with the author after some disagreements.  I don't know if the rumors are accurate but toward the end of the book he does quote Billy Joel's interview in a magazine, saying he "depicted the cancellation of his autobiography for fear it was being steered to "more of the sex and wives and girlfriends and drinking and divorce and the depression" --topics the interview then pursued"; whether that's referring to this book or not, I don't know.  

The author says that he spent over one hundred hours interviewing Joel personally, spanning from 2008 through 2014, as well another another hundred hours interviewing those close to him.  I would believe it because there is a lot of information in this book but unfortunately, it read to me like a book report.  There wasn't much emotion and nothing drew me in.  The long timespan spent working on the book caused a little confusion for me as well when someone that I knew to be deceased was interviewed and quoted; I drew my own conclusion that the interview must have taken place toward the beginning of his research but that wasn't made clear in the reading.

At the end of the day, I don't feel like anything new was shared that I couldn't have learned reading the numerous articles published about Billy Joel over the years.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"Who am I? I don't know anything about myself because I don't have a father to let me know what I'm supposed to be like. In some ways, this can free you up - you can be anything you want, go in any direction. But in other ways, you may not feel you ever have a center."

"...I was excruciatingly shy when I was a kid, up until my midteens. That's when I realized that I could make my piano talk for me. The piano spoke what I was feeling."

"My ethic in writing songs throughout that era was always to be talking about people, whether it's a love song, a song about a relationship, or a friend, or a barfly - it's always got to be about a particular person. If you try to write for an audience or to a concept, I don't think you're really writing for anybody. But if you're writing for a specific person and a specific situation, a lot of people might be able to identify with that."

"I think people have this idea that Billy Joel is set in concrete. They either like my stuff or they don't like my stuff. They either like me or they don't like me. I don't think they really know a lot about what I can do. Maybe I don't even know anymore what we can do, what we can't do. But I suspect there's a lot more that I can do."

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