At his mother’s insistence, Long Island native Billy Joel reluctantly took up piano lessons at the young age of four. It would help engender one of the most commercially successful careers in the last five decades of pop music. If there’s a moral to the story, it’s that youngsters should always listen to their mothers!
Of course, Joel is so much more than one of the industry’s foremost piano men. For instance, did you know that he made up half of the proto-metal outfit Attila before embarking on a solo career? Or that smash singles like “A Matter of Trust” don’t feature the piano at all? Meanwhile, his signature song “Piano Man” isn’t even one of his best sellers.
Nevertheless, it was “Piano Man” that helped take Billy Joel from a struggling solo act into a musical icon with nearly three decades worth of hit songs and albums under his belt. To unpack his legacy is to discover a versatile and highly intuitive artist, who was able to absorb and then reinterpret classic styles and shifting contemporary trends alike. It’s no accident that he’s credited with two of the 50 best albums of all time.
To determine the biggest pop hits by Billy Joel, 24/7 Tempo reviewed performance data from the Billboard Hot 100 song charts. Songs were ranked based on an inverse score wherein a week at No. 1 is worth 100 points, a week at No. 2 worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth one point. Chart data is current through the week of August 20, 2022.
Call it commercial or pastiche if you will, but it’s all still rock and roll to Joel and his millions of fans around the world. To date, he remains the fourth most successful solo act of all time with over 85 million certified units sold. (See where he falls on the list of the best-selling Grammy winners of all time.)
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