Billy Joel: America’s Piano Man

Joshua S. Duchan. Rowman & Littlefield, $40 (200p) ISBN 978-1-4422-4205-0
Musicologist Duchan (Powerful Voices: The Musical and Social World of Collegiate A Capella) presents an informative and entertaining look at the work of pop superstar Billy Joel, positioning his songs in the canon of 20th-century pop music. Despite Joel’s multiplatinum album sales, countless hit songs, and a performing career as long—and a fan base as loyal—as that of Bruce Springsteen, he has never been a favorite with critics. Duchan makes a powerful argument for the complexity in Joel’s work by keeping the spotlight on the music, tracing how “Joel’s music kept alive an emphasis on well-crafted melody and harmony” rooted in Tin Pan Alley traditions while incorporating rock, jazz, and doo-wop with lyrics that addressed his listeners through contemporary themes. For example, Duchan carefully shows how an “unabashedly sentimental” song such as “New York State of Mind” shares many of the features of the Tin Pan Alley genre (the song similarly “includes four verses that roughly fit the ABAC pattern and finish with title lyrics”). Duchan argues that “Joel sings as, for, and about hard-working people whose circumstances are worsening and who have little control over the forces that affect their lives.” He successfully argues for Joel’s music relevance. (June)
Reviewed on: 07/24/2017
Release date: 06/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 216 pages - 978-1-4422-4206-7
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