Billy Joel by Fred Schruers (A Book Review)

JoelHow can you not like the music of Billy Joel? From the release of his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, to his Madison Square residency (where he plays one show a month going on indefinitely), Billy Joel has proven himself to be one of the greatest American musicians and songwriters of all time. His songs about real people and real situations have connected with listeners worldwide. Joel has a gift for capturing where people are through his musical stories that are laced with feelings and melodies that have become landmarks in the hearts of many. My personal favorite Joel song is Scenes From an Italian Restaurant and I am confident many Joel fans share that favorite with me.  Billy Joel is a musical icon.

But what about behind the music? What about the man?

Billy Joel, the new biography by Fred Schruers, digs into the mystery of the singer-songwriters long career, revealing all of the success, failure, heartbreak, and triumph that goes with building such a musical history. Schruers devoted six years to research and had countless interviews with Joel and those who have been around him to capture the truth of the man behind the music that people love. As is often the case when a life is researched, thing are not as rosy as they seem. Schruers and his unveiling of Billy Joel is no exception. Joel’s life is full of betrayal, broken relationships and marriages, and career mishaps and confusion.  Schruers offers the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Told through many direct quotes from those involved in the various stages of Joel’s life, Schruers lets the reader hear the various points of view straight from the horse’s mouth. I found this approach to be enlightening most of the time, but at other times it became drudgery and overdone because it felt like I was reading a book of quotes relating to Billy Joel compiled by topic. Several times in my reading of this book, I also became confused because of repetitive information that messed with the chronology, causing me to look back to previous pages to get the timeline adjusted in my mind so I could continue.

Apart from the aforementioned problems I had with the book, I enjoyed the book because I enjoy the music of Billy Joel.  My desire to know more about why some of my favorite songs were written was the force that carried me through the book and it delivered on that quest. Though it is no surprise that life is messy, even for a celebrity, it is encouraging to see someone overcome and press through almost impossible times to bring a body of lasting music to the people. For Billy Joel, it has always been and will always be about the music.  Fans of Billy Joel can find the proof in this biography thanks to the thorough research of Fred Schruers.

(I received this book from in exchange for an honest review)


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