The Words and Music of Billy Joel
by Ken Bielen
July 2011, 187pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-38016-7
$49, £37, 41€, A70
eBook Available: 978-0-313-38017-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

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?

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
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.
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