Like the Empire State Building, the Yankees and pastrami on rye from the Carnegie Deli, Billy Joel is a New York City institution.
He’ll cement his status as the preeminent Big Apple rock star starting Monday as he begins his residency at Madison Square Garden, performing a concert every month until ? well, there is no until at the moment, but considering that most of the shows through August are either sold out or nearly so, he could be here quite a while.
But the piano-playing singer-songwriter’s connections to the New York City area stretch far beyond his residency, dipping deep into his life and music.
Here are some Billy Joel NYC factoids:
Joel was born in the Bronx on May 9, 1949, and was raised in the Long Island suburb of Hicksville.
His first album, “Cold Spring Harbor,” was named after a town on the Island.
He performed his first video special, “Live From Long Island,” at Nassau Coliseum on Dec. 30, 1982. The special would be aired on HBO and released on VHS (remember VHS?)
He is the only musician to have played at Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Giants Stadium, Madison Square Garden and Nassau Coliseum. You can add Barclays Center to that now, after he played a New Year’s Eve show there last month.
He’s performed at a number of benefit shows, including the Concert for New York City at MSG on Oct. 20, 2001, where he sang “Miami (I’ve Seen the Lights Go out on Broadway)” and “New York State of Mind,” as well as “Your Song” in duet with Elton John. On Dec. 12, 2012, he performed a re-worked “Miami 2017 (I’ve seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)” at “12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief,” also at MSG.
On a tour in 2006, he played 12 sold-out shows at MSG over a few months period, and was the first non-athlete to have his number retired there — No. 12, of course.
He lived in an apartment on Central Park South through much of the 1980s and ’90s with his then wife Christie Brinkley, selling it in 1998 for $1.675 million. It was sold again this past year for $11.4 million.
Joel’s catalog was the inspiration for the jukebox musical “Movin’ Out,” which premiered on Broadway on Oct. 24, 2002, and ran for 1,303 performances and 28 previews. It would also play on London’s West End and tour nationally. It was nominated for eight Tonys and won two, for Best Orchestrations and Best Choreography. It also was nominated for six Drama Desk Awards and won one for Outstanding Choreography.
Joel’s New York City influence was deeply heard in his music, both blatantly and subtly.
“Miami 2017 (I’ve Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway)”
“New York State of Mind”
Some songs had more off-handed references to places around town. Here are some of those local lyrics:
“So you go to the Village in your tie-dye jeans.”
‘Big Man on Mulberry Street’
(The title, of course, refers to the street in Little Italy.)
“I cruise from Houston to Canal Street,” “I guess I made an impression on somebody North of Hester and south of Grand”
‘You May Be Right’
“I walked through Bedford Stuy alone”
“Well, you went uptown riding in your limousine/In your fine Park Avenue clothes,” “They were all impressed with your Halston dress/And the people you knew at Elaine’s”
‘Scenes From an Italian Restaurant’
The Italian restaurant in the title was inspired by the now closed Fontana di Trevi at 151 W. 57th St., across from Carnegie Hall. The line “Or was more than a hit at the Parkway Diner” refers to a restaurant in Hicksville where Joel grew up.
‘The Great Wall of China’
The lyric “Help yourself, it’s all you can eat at the Empire Diner,” refers to a popular eatery in Chelsea. Food Network chef Amanda Freitag will be reopening the diner this year, according to its website.
‘Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)’
The lyric “He works at Mister Cacciatore’s down on Sullivan Street” refers to Napoli Restaurant in SoHo, at the corner of Sullivan Street. It is now closed.
‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’
In a list song such as this, there are a slew of references to things New York, many of them sports related — Joe DiMaggio, “Brooklyn’s got a winning team,” Roy Campanella, Mickey Mantle. Other mentions with a New York angle: Walter Winchell, The Rosenbergs, “Peter Pan,” payola and Bernie Goetz.