The Words and Music of Billy Joel

by Ken Bielen


Billy Joel began making records at the age of 15. Since then, his recordings have sold over 100 million copies, despite poor critical review. Many of them have become standards routinely covered by other artists. What is it about the music of this talented singer/songwriter that has enabled him to remain so popular for so long?

Print Flyer

July 2011


Pages 187
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Popular Culture/Music and Performing Arts

This detailed exploration looks at the musical works of recording artist Billy Joel and his impact on popular culture.

Billy Joel skyrocketed to popularity in 1977 with his fifth album, The Stranger, and he has been a major American artist ever since. His songs are timeless and appreciated by generations of fans. The Words and Music of Billy Joel examines this influential musician's songs in detail, exploring the meaning of the lyrics and placing Joel's artistry in a regional and cultural context.

Covering work that ranges from Joel's recordings with the Lost Souls to his classical compositions, the book focuses on the dozen studio albums of popular music released between 1971 and 1993. A bibliographic essay is included, as are both a discography and a filmography. There is also a special focus on the interpretation of Joel's songs by other recording artists.


  • Photographs
  • A discography of Joel's recordings including albums and singles
  • A selected discography of cover versions of Joel's songs by other recording artists
  • A filmography
  • A bibliography of significant books and articles about Billy Joel and his work
  • A bibliographic essay


  • Analyzes the music and lyrics of every available recording by Billy Joel
  • Examines cover versions of Joel's songs by other artists
  • Explores Joel's influence and his longevity in a field where that is far from the rule
Author Info

Ken Bielen, PhD, is director of the Office of Grants Management at Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, IN. He received his degree in American culture studies from Bowling Green State University. His published works include Praeger's The Words and Music of Neil Young and The Lyrics of Civility: Biblical Images and Popular Music Lyrics in American Culture. He coauthored Praeger's The Words and Music of John Lennon with Ben Urish.

Series Description

The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection

The legends of the music industry are consistently among the most revered celebrities in popular culture. We know everything about them—who they dated, where they played, and how they died. However, what they sought to tell us through their music often remains undiscovered or forgotten. The Praeger Singer-Songwriter Collection provides critical analysis and commentary on the work of such important artists as John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Simon, Carole King, Bob Marley, Frank Zappa, Ice Cube, and David Bowie, and does so in the hope that, from behind such legendary faces, voices can again emerge.

Other Titles of Interest

The Words and Music of Jimi Hendrix cover imageThe Words and Music of Paul McCartney cover imageThe Words and Music of George Harrison cover image
The Words and Music of Joni Mitchell cover imageThe Words and Music of Van Morrison cover image

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