Sunday, October 26, 2014

Billy Joel by Fred Schruers

About four years ago, Billy Joel was to have published a memoir. In an earlier blog post here, I mention that The Book of Joel had gone to the pre-order on Amazon stage, with a cover and final manuscript turned in to the publisher. Two months before go time, Joel pulled the plug. I'll repost his quote, included in the older blog:

"It took working on writing a book to make me realize that I'm not all that interested in talking about the past, and that the best expression of my life and its ups and downs has been and remains my music," he said.

Schruers had been hired by Joel to help with the project. An interview in Newsday details the journey from memoir to "semi-authorized" biography - the author notes in the book that while Joel contributed thoughts and clarifications, he left Schruers to his work.

Rather extensive, at that. Billy Joel (AMZcomes together through multiple interviews with friends, associates, ex-wives, and archives of articles and interviews with the Piano Man. The more you read, you do realize Joel had a point with regards to his music telling his story, and Billy Joel could be read in tandem with a binge listen of Joel's music. One would be hard-pressed to think of another American singer/songwriter with an equally extensive, autobiographical catalog. More telling that the story "stopped" twenty years ago with Joel's last album of original work, River of Dreams. Why that is, I won't spoil it.

You come to understand Joel as a private person with a very public career, and while he has no interest in rehashing the past it doesn't make the life lived any less interesting. Schruers documents everything from family struggles in Nazi-occupied Europe to the heartaches turned tabloid gossip: money mismanagement, divorces, substance abuse. Rock and roll problems suffered by one who doesn't necessarily lead the fabled lifestyle to match. It may be why, compared to stories of other musicians, I am more sympathetic toward Joel's struggles. He doesn't have to worry about his next meal, but he's still just like us

I enjoyed this book. It is detailed without being gossipy. You might come away realizing you're more of a Joel fan than you initially thought.

ARC received via NetGalley.

Rating: B+

Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and a book blogger. Her latest title is Killing the Kordovas.




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