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Did Billy Joel wait too long to turn the lights back on?

Can the Piano Man re-enter the modern music scene?

By D-DonohoePublished 15 days ago 3 min read
The new Bill Joel single released on 1 FEbruary 2024

As a kid, one of the first songs I remember hearing on the radio and liking was Piano Man. I asked my Mom who sang that song, and she of course told me it was Neil Diamond. After years of hunting record stores for a Neil Diamond album with Piano Man on it, I finally found out my Mom knew nothing about music and subsequently located Billy Joel’s music instead.

I have owned his music on record, cassette, CD, and most recently, on download. In high school English, I did a presentation on his lyrics as part of a poetry component. Even now, his music still appears on my playlist. Then there are the live shows, I’ve seen him perform live twice, and even for a man well into his twilight years, Billy still puts on a show for the audience. I mean you can’t mistake the opening piano solo to Angry Young Man.

So, when I heard that he was going to release his first new song since 2007, suffice to say I was excited, if not a bit perplexed. I knew his last studio album was River of Dreams in 1993 (with the cover art for that album painted by ex-wife number 2 Christie Brinkley), so I couldn’t think what the song was in 2007. Turns out it was a love song to ex-wife number 3 Katie Lee and the protest song “Christmas in Fallujah”. Mind you, a lot has happened in the world since 2007.

I guess I had a concern that Billy Joel might have left his comeback too late (although the number of sold-out shows Joel has played at Madison Square Gardens would indicate he’s still as popular as ever). I thought about his song “The Entertainer” from the 1974 album Streetlife Serenade.

I am the entertainer

And I know just where I stand

Another serenader

And another long-haired band

Today I am your champion

I may have won your hearts

But I know the game, you'll forget my name

I won't be here in another year

If I don't stay on the charts

Well Billy Joel hasn’t been on the charts in over 20 years, would there be a market for his new music? Would the world embrace a new song or just want to yell out “Play Piano Man”?

Well on 1 February 2024, he released his new song, “Turn the lights back on”, and then on February 4, he played it at the Grammy’s. In all the hype of Tracey Chapman and Luke Combs stirring version of “Fast Car” it probably didn’t get the attention you would have expected. Nonetheless, the song was played around the world and received a standing ovation from the audience.

But was it any good?

It has a simple musical score, no boppy tunes. Mostly it’s just the piano and Billy singing a song. It harkens back to what people often associate with Joel. But the lyrics, speak to you.

As we're laying in the darkness

Did I wait too long

To turn the lights back on?

A man reflecting on his life, on his love. Has he been neglectful, has he seen the error of his ways too late? He’s on his fourth marriage, so maybe he’s going to try to not repeat the mistakes of marriage 1-3. Maybe they are just words that he strung together, looking back on a life where he’s had to deal with depression and substance abuse. Whatever the motivation, it’s a good song. It’s honest and heartfelt.

Will there be a new album to accompany it? There’s nothing to say there will be, but I’d like to hear a little bit more from the Piano Man.

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About the Creator


Amateur storyteller, LEGO fanatic, leader, ex-Detective and human. All sorts of stories: some funny, some sad, some a little risqué all of them told from the heart.

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