Coming in sixth of all-time in album sales, Billy Joel is one of the most popular singers in the U.S.—but he didn't acheive fame in the stereotypical “American Way.” The Piano Man is actually a bit camera shy (“I'm not a big TV actor type of guy. I'm a piano player,” he's said), and rather than moving to L.A. like many other superstars, he has stayed put in low-key Long Island. Yet Joel has managed to become one of the most successful songwriters of his generation.
From “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to “Uptown Girl,” “Just the Way You Are,” and “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” the singer has been the voice of a time since as far back as the '70s, and he continues to keep the rock-and-roll spirit going with a residency at Madison Square Garden. He even holds the record for the most performances at the arena.
In honor of this big shot’s 68th birthday, we’ve rounded up 9 times Joel was America’s favorite crooner.
1. When he formed a 2-man doo-wop group with Jimmy Fallon.
The star appeared on an episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and gave an a cappella performance of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” in 4-part harmony. The video got nearly 14.5 million views, proving that we can’t get enough of this incredible singer.
2. When Jimmy Fallon returned the favor at a N.Y.C. concert.
When Joel stopped by The Tonight Show last year, he proposed that Fallon join him on stage at his next concert, and he was certainly a man of his word. The late night host joined the Piano Man for a few duets, even rocking a New York Rangers jersey that said “Joel” on the back and calling Joel "the greatest singer-songwriter in all the world."
3. When the amount of references to him on The Office was worthy of a Reddit thread.
Joel surely had a fan in the writer’s room of The Office, as he was mentioned countless times throughout the show and his music was played at pivotal moments like Roy’s wedding. Some enthusiastic fans even started a thread to gather all of the references to the iconic singer they could remember.
4. When his song became the opening credit for Bosom Buddies.
Joel’s 1978 hit, “My Life,” opened the hit TV show “for the longest time,” but it wasn’t sung by the star himself—until Adult Swim parodied the show. In this hilarious video, Joel returns to sing his hit. “It is really gratifying to know that they’re going to actually use my voice singing my song on the TV show, Bosom Buddies,” he says in the video below, around the 4:50 mark, taking it in stride when he’s jokingly asked to “sound more like the guy from the show.”
5. When he outsold Michael Jackson.
According to the RIAA, Joel’s U.S. album sales come in sixth of all time, behind only The Beatles, Garth Brooks, Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. The star comes in ahead of Michael Jackson, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and The Rolling Stones.
6. When thousands of fans chose to ring in the New Year with him.
7. When The Mindy Project called Madison Square Garden his home.
“I did not know they held sporting events at Madison Square Garden,” Mindy said in an episode from Season 4. “I thought that’s just where Billy Joel lived.” She has a point: Holding the record for the most performances ever at the Garden, Joel sings there about once a month to a typically sold-out crowd.
8. When Pink processed to his song at her wedding.
Joel has written countless romantic ballads, including “She’s Always a Woman,” to which the pop star walked down the aisle at her 2006 nuptials.
9. When he wrote this legendary hit.
For Joel, the first time was the charm: His very first single, Piano Man, debuted in 1973, and lives on as one of the century’s most popular songs. Happy birthday, Billy!