JOEL, BILLY (1949– ), U.S. singer and songwriter. Born in the Bronx, New York, Joel grew up in Levittown and went   to high school in nearby Hicksville. The son of a Holocaust survivor who came to New York by way of Cuba, Joel first climbed the music charts with his self-confessed autobiographical sketch "Piano Man" (1976). This was followed by a series of eclectic hit singles such as "Just the Way You Are" (1977), "She's Always a Woman to Me" (1978), "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" (1979), and "Allentown" (1981). Other popular songs of Joel's include "Honesty," "The Longest Time," "New York State of Mind," "Tell Her About It," "Uptown Girl," and "We Didn't Start the Fire." His albums were so successful, that by 1994 he was the only artist to have four albums at the septupleplatinum (7 million units) mark. A musical based on Joel's music, called Movin' Out, debuted in Chicago in 2002 and then moved to Broadway. In 2003 it received 10 Tony nominations. Joel, who wrote the music, the lyrics, and did the orchestration, won a Tony for Best Orchestrations. Joel has won five Grammy Awards for his music, as well as receiving the Grammy Legend Award in 1990. Joel went to Cuba in 1979 for a historic three-day musical event, Havana Jam, at the Karl Marx Theater in the Cuban capital. Then, in the summer of 1987, he made a significant cultural breakthrough by performing in Moscow and Leningrad, becoming the first American pop star to bring a fully staged rock production to the Soviet Union. Joel has performed in many benefit concerts in support of a variety of causes, such as AIDS, the rainforest, earthquake relief, and the environment. In 1985 he headlined a benefit concert for the Long Island-based organization Charity Begins at Home; that year he also participated in the star-studded "We Are the World" recording; in 2001 he performed at the benefit Concert for New York City after 9/11. In 2002 he was named Music Cares' Person of the Year. Among his other awards and accolades, Joel was inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame 1992. In 1994 he was awarded the Billboard Century Music Award. In 1997 he received ASCAP's Founder's Award for lifetime achievement. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and, in the same year, received the Award of Merit from the American Music Awards. In 2000 he was presented with the Smithsonian Institution's James Smithson Bicentennial Medal. In 2001, the Songwriter's Hall of Fame bestowed on him its highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. McKenzie, Billy Joel (1985); J. Tamarkin, Billy Joel: From Hicksville to Hitsville (1984); P. Gambaccini, Billy Joel: A Personal File (1979). (Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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