William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the “Piano Man” after his first major hit and signature song of the same name, he has led a commercially successful career as a solo artist since the 1970s, having released twelve studio albums from 1971 to 1993 as well as one studio album in 2001. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, as well as the sixth best-selling recording artist and the third best-selling solo artist in the United States, with over 150 million records sold worldwide. His 1985 compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2, is one of the best-selling albums in the US.
Joel was born in 1949 in The Bronx, New York, and grew up on Long Island, both places that influenced his music. Growing up, he took piano lessons at the insistence of his mother. After dropping out of high school to pursue a musical career, Joel took part in two short-lived bands, The Hassles and Attila, before signing a record deal with Family Productions and kicking off a solo career in 1971 with his first release, Cold Spring Harbor. In 1972, Joel caught the attention of Columbia Records after a live radio performance of the song “Captain Jack” became popular in Philadelphia, prompting him to sign a new record deal with the company and release his second album, Piano Man, in 1973. After releasing the albums Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles in 1974 and 1976 respectively, Joel released his critical and commercial breakthrough album, The Stranger, in 1977. This album became Columbia’s best-selling release, selling over 10 million copies and spawning several hit singles, including “Just the Way You Are”, “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)”, “Only the Good Die Young”, and “She’s Always a Woman”; another song on this album, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, is Joel’s favorite of his own songs and has become a staple of his live shows.