The all-access biography and unprecedented look at the life, career, and legacy of a pint-sized kid from Long Island who became a music legend.
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.
Journalist Schruers draws from many hours of interviews with Joel and his family and friends to create a generous portrait of the determined, talented musician. Joel was born in the Bronx in 1949, and his family moved to Hicksville, N.Y., the following year, where they were one of the few Jewish families. With his father largely absent, Joel took up boxing to deal with the bullies who beat him up on his way to his piano lessons. Enamored by pop music on the radio (Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, the Kingsmen, the Ronettes, the Beatles), though not graced with "matinee idol" looks, Joel found that belting out crowd-pleasers at the piano attracted notice, especially from girls. Instead of finishing high school, Schruers explains, Joel put together a series of bands and soon attracted the attention of record producers first, Paramount's Artie Ripp, who "discovered" Joel, yet whose contract would prove onerous for some years; then Clive Davis at Columbia, which Joel wanted to be signed to because it was also Bob Dylan's label. Schruers writes that with his platinum album The Stranger, in 1977, Joel had "moved to a different place in the music business." Joel's first wife, Elizabeth, became his manager, liberating him from the "larcenous" record business for a time. Soon, Joel began writing his most memorable love songs for the women in his. His three-decade run of hit songwriting came to an end after 1993's River of Dreams. This book was originally to have been published as a memoir in 2011, with Schruers as cowriter; and here, Schruers uses interviews to great effect, allowing to emerge the everyman persona that resonates with Joel's fans. A writer and fan evidently sympathetic to and admiring of his subject, Schruers offers a fair, thorough assessment of Joel's celebrity.