William Martin "Billy" Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American musician and pianist, singer-songwriter, and classical composer. Since releasing his first hit song, "Piano Man", in 1973, Joel has become the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, according to the RIAA.
Joel had Top 40 hits in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; achieving 33 Top 40 hits in the United States, all of which he wrote singlehandedly. He is also a six-time Grammy Award winner, a 23-time Grammy nominee and has sold over 150 million records worldwide. He was inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame (1992), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006) and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame (2009). Joel "retired" from recording pop music in 1993 but continues to tour (often with Elton John).
Joel was born in The Bronx, New York and raised in Hicksville, New York. His father, Howard (born Helmuth), was born in Germany as the son of German-Jewish merchant and manufacturer Karl Amson Joel who, after the advent of the Nazi regime, emigrated to Switzerland and later to the United States. Billy Joel's mother, Rosalind Nyman, was born in England to a Jewish family (Philip and Rebecca Nyman). His parents divorced in 1960, and his father moved to Vienna, Austria. Billy has a sister, Judith Joel, and a half-brother, Alexander Joel, who is an acclaimed classical conductor in Europe, currently chief musical director of the Staatstheater Braunschweig.
Joel's father was an accomplished classical pianist. Billy reluctantly began piano lessons at an early age, at his mother's insistence; his teachers included the noted American pianist Morton Estrin and musician/songwriter Timothy Ford. His interest in music, rather than sports, was a source of teasing and bullying in his early years. (He has said in interviews that his piano instructor also taught ballet. Her name was Frances Neiman, and she was a Juilliard trained musician. She gave both classic piano and ballet lessons in the studio attached to the rear of her house, leading neighborhood bullies to mistakenly think he was learning to dance.) As a teenager, Joel took up boxing so that he would be able to defend himself. He boxed successfully on the amateur Golden Gloves circuit for a short time, winning twenty-two bouts, but abandoned the sport shortly after having his nose broken in his twenty-fourth boxing match.
Joel attended Hicksville High School, class of 1967. Joel however did not graduate from Hicksville. Due to playing at a piano bar, he was one English credit short of the graduation requirement; he overslept on the day of an important exam, owing to his late-night musician's lifestyle. He left high school without a diploma to begin a career in music. "I told them, 'the hell with it. If I'm not going to Columbia University, I'm going to Columbia Records and you don't need a high school diploma over there'." Columbia did, in fact, become the label that eventually signed him. In 1992, he submitted essays to the school board and was awarded his diploma at Hicksville High's annual graduation ceremony, 25 years after he had left.
Upon seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Joel decided to pursue a full-time musical career, and set about finding a local Long Island band to join. Eventually he found the Echoes, a group that specialized in British Invasion covers. The Echoes became a popular New York attraction, convincing him to leave high school to become a professional musician. He began playing for the Echoes when he was 14 years old. ~ SOURCE: Wikipedia
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