Having sold more than 150 million records, Billy Joel ranks as one of most popular recording artists and respected entertainers in the world. Throughout the years, Joel’s songs have acted as personal and cultural touchstones for millions of people, mirroring his own goal of writing songs that “meant something during the time in which I lived … and transcended that time.”
Billy Joel has had 33 Top 40 hits and 23 Grammy nominations since signing his first solo recording contract in 1972. In 1990, he was presented with a Grammy Legend Award. Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992, Joel was presented with the Johnny Mercer Award, the organization’s highest honor, in 2001. In 1999 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and has received the Recording Industry Association of America Diamond Award, presented for albums that have sold over 10 million copies.
In November, 2014, Billy Joel will receive The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which honors living musical artists whose lifetime contributions in the field of popular song exemplify the standard of excellence associated with George and Ira Gershwin, by promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations. Also in November, 2014, Billy will receive the once-in-a-century ASCAP Centennial Award. This is presented to American music icons in recognition of their incomparable accomplishments in their respective music genres and beyond.
December 2013, Madison Square Garden announced Billy Joel as the first-ever music franchise of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Joining the ranks of The Garden’s other original franchises – including the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty – Billy Joel kicked off this franchise at The Garden performing a show a month, as long as there is demand, starting January 27, 2014. Since his first show in 1978, Billy has performed 46 shows at Madison Square Garden, including an unprecedented 12 consecutive sold-out shows that have earned Billy a spot among the Garden greats with a banner raised in his honor.
Also in December 2013, Billy Joel received the 36th Annual Kennedy Center Honor, one of the United States’ top cultural awards. At The ceremony, Don Henley sang the classic ballad, “She’s Got a Way.” Also paying homage was Garth Brooks, who performed a medley of “Allentown” and “Goodnight Saigon” and Rufus Wainwright who performed two Joel classics, “New York State of Mind” and “Piano Man.” Brendan Urie performed “Big Shot.” Tony Bennett introduced the tribute.
Joel held his first ever indoor Irish concert at the O2 in Dublin on November 1, 2013. He also returned to the UK for the first time in seven years and played two arena dates in Manchester and Birmingham plus a very special – more intimate – show at London’s Hammersmith Apollo. In October 2013, Billy Joel held a surprise concert on Long Island at The Paramount (Huntington, NY) to benefit Long Island Cares. On December 31, 2013, Billy performed at The Barclays Center.
In 2013, Billy Joel held tens of thousands of visitors to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in the palm of his hand. It was Joel’s second full-length show in three years He went to New Orleans fresh from Sydney, Australia, where he played a full set at the Stone Music Festival.
Joel and his band prepared a similar array of Joel’s huge collection of hits for Sydney and New Orleans, and mixed in some handpicked tunes specific to the venue at hand. Joel told the crowd, “we know how you felt” since last year’s Hurricane Sandy, referring to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005. “We’re trying to rebuild. We’re taking inspiration from you guys.”
New York’s quintessential son, Billy Joel, performed six songs at the historic 12.12.12 The Concert For Sandy Relief, joining other music greats including Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and more to raise awareness and money to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. The show, which included tributes to first responders and those affected by the storm, was broadcast to an estimated 2 billion viewers and raised $32 million in funds before anyone took the stage. Billy, who is proud of his personal connection to Long Island and the tri-state area impacted by the storm, told the audience, “We’re going to get through all this. This is New York and New Jersey and Long Island, and we’re just too mean to lay down and die.”
Billy Joel was honored by Steinway & Sons with a painted portrait that hangs in Steinway Hall in Manhattan. Joel, who has been a Steinway Artist for almost 20 years, is the first non-classical pianist to be immortalized in the Steinway Hall collection. His portrait hangs alongside those of legendary musicians including Sergei Rachmaninoff, Franz Liszt, Arthur Rubinstein, Ignacy Paderewski, and more. The portrait of Billy Joel, painted by artist and musician Paul Wyse, is one of only two living artists to be inducted into the collection, the other being Leon Fleisher. In 2010, Joel released “The Last Play at Shea. The intersecting histories of a city, a team, and a music legend are examined in a documentary feature film that charts both the ups and downs of the New York Mets and the life and career of Long Island native Billy Joel, the last performer to play Shea Stadium before its demolition in 2008. Energetically set to the soundtrack of Joel’s final Shea concert, “The Last Play At Shea” interweaves personal and candid Joel interviews with concert footage-with guests such as Sir Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Garth Brooks, Steven Tyler, John Mayer, Don Henley, Roger Daltrey – the history of Shea, and the birth of the Mets.
In 2004, Billy Joel received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, adding another milestone to his extraordinary career. “Movin’ Out,” a Broadway musical based on Joel’s music choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp, was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and took home two including Best Orchestrations–Billy’s first Tony Award win–and Best Choreography.
In addition to his Grammy Awards, Joel has earned three Awards For Cable Excellence and has received numerous ASCAP and BMI awards including the ASCAP Founders Award and the BMI Career Achievement Award and, in 1994, was given the 1994 Billboard Century Award. Among his many other awards and honors, Billy Joel has been given a Doctor of Humane Letters from Fairfield University (1991), a Honorary Doctorate from Berklee College of Music (1993), and a Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hofstra University (1997) and a Doctor of Music from Southampton College.
Joel has donated his time and resources to a variety of charitable causes outside the realm of his musical career. A longtime advocate for music education, he first began holding “master class” sessions on college campuses more than 20 years ago, giving sessions at colleges across the country and around the world. In addition, he has held classes as a benefit for the STAR Foundation (Standing for Truth About Radiation) and to establish the Rosalind Joel Scholarship for the Performing Arts at City College in New York City.
Billy Joel has launched an ongoing educational initiative to provide seed money, musical scholarships, and endowments to a variety of East Coast colleges, universities and music schools.
For his accomplishments as a musician and as a humanitarian, Billy Joel was honored as the 2002 MusiCares Person Of The Year by the MusiCares Foundation and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.