The Inspirations Behind Iconic Billy Joel Songs And An Inside Look At His Life

Billy Joel has become one of the most prolific artists in music history. His albums have become best-sellers and his concerts are attended by millions from all over the world. Not only does Joel have a compelling career, but he’s also had some unique romantic relationships.

Discover the women who inspired his songs, facts about his life, and which one of his hit songs he can’t stand!

The Influence Behind “The Piano Man”

Billy Joel and wife Elizabeth Weber circa 1981 in New York City
Robin Platzer/Getty Images
Robin Platzer/Getty Images

There are many songs in Billy Joel’s collection, but the one he’s arguably the most famous for is “The Piano Man.”

Released in 1973, Joel wrote about being in his early 20s and still not finding success as a musician. He had just married his first wife, Elizabeth Weber Small, who was the “waitress practicing politics.”

Elizabeth Weber Small Also Inspired A Few Other Songs

elizabeth weber small with billy joel
Ron Galella/Getty Images
Ron Galella/Getty Images

Not only was Elizabeth Weber Small mentioned in “The Piano Man,” but she also inspired more of Joel’s songs. He wrote the ballads “She’s Only a Woman” and “Just the Way You Are” about her.

He thought of these songs as a tribute to her and she even asked for publishing rights.

His Relationship With Elle MacPherson

elle macpherson posing for a photo in 2016
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

One of Billy Joel’s lesser-known romantic relationships was with supermodel Elle MacPherson. Joel felt intimidated dating a supermodel and wrote a song about it.

That song happened to be “And So It Goes.” The lyrics were about him knowing the relationship wasn’t going to last when MacPherson started getting more famous.

Who “Uptown Girl” Was Actually About

uptown girl music video with billy joel and christie brinkley
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Most fans of Billy Joel probably thought “Uptown Girl” was about his second wife Christie Brinkley. She appeared in the music video after all.

The song was actually about his relationship with Elle MacPherson, Brinkley, and other women he dated before them. The song was originally called “Uptown Girls,” but he changed the title when he started dating Brinkley.

Christie Brinkley Won Over His Heart

christie brinkley and billy joel in 1983
Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images
Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images

After Joel’s divorce from first wife Elizabeth Weber Small, he had two women competing for his affection. Supermodels Elle MacPherson and Christie Brinkley wanted to win over Joel’s heart.

While he dated both, he ended up marrying Brinkley in 1985. She inspired the song “The Is the Time” and the entire album of An Innocent Man.

Billy Joel’s Current Net Worth

Billy Joel performing on the piano
Rick Kern/Getty Images
Rick Kern/Getty Images

Since Billy Joel is one of the best-selling artists of all time, he’s bound to have a significant net worth.

Currently, Joel has a net worth of about $225 million. He has sold over 150 million records worldwide and recently earned millions for his residency at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

His Impressive Real Estate Properties

Billy Joel and his wife Elizabeth, with their dog on their property in Cove Neck in Oyster Bay
Dick Kraus/Newsday RM via Getty Images
Dick Kraus/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Billy Joel owns a plethora of luxurious properties across the United States. He owns a 14,000-square-foot mansion in Oyster Bay that he bought for $22.5 million.

Also, Joel owns side-by-side properties across four acres of Manalapan, Florida that he bought for $12 million. Some of his previous homes sold to celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld and Sting.

Marriage To Katie Lee

katie lee and bille joel photographed together
Tana Lee Alves/WireImage/Getty Images
Tana Lee Alves/WireImage/Getty Images

Billy Joel married third wife Katie Lee in 2004 and they divorced about five years later. At the time of their wedding, Lee was 23 and Joel was 55.

Lee is a chef, cookbook author, food critic, and novelist. Some may recognize her from Iron Chef America, The Kitchen, and Beach Bites with Katie Lee.

Tying The Knot To Alexis Roderick

alexis roderick and billy joel at their wedding
Myrna Suarez/WireImage/Getty Images
Myrna Suarez/WireImage/Getty Images

On July 4, 2015, Billy Joel got married for the fourth time to Alexis Roderick. She is an equestrian and a former executive from Morgan Stanley.

The couple has a six-year-old daughter named Della Rose and a four-year-old daughter named Remy Anne. Joel also has a 36-year-old daughter named Alexa Ray from his marriage to Christie Brinkley.

Why People Can’t Buy Front Row Seats To His Concerts

Billy Joel performs at Madison Square Garden
Taylor Hill/Wireimage/Getty Images
Taylor Hill/Wireimage/Getty Images

As of recent, Billy Joel is making the majority of his money performing live. However, audience members may wonder why they can’t get front-row seats.

Joel started giving away all of his best seats to people who couldn’t afford them. He thinks of them as his real fans.

He Used To Be A Boxer

Billy Joel poses for a portait by a river bank in circa 1971
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before Billy Joel decided to become a singer, he had another profession in mind. When Joel was a kid he was constantly bullied, so he wanted a way to defend himself.

He decided to take up boxing and ended up having a talent for it. He won his first 22 fights and competed on the Golden Gloves circuit. But he gave it up after breaking his nose.

His Father’s Absence Inspired This Song

Billy Joel sits in front of the banner at a press conference
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Billy Joel grew up mostly without his father. He had emigrated to America and was a professional pianist, which is one of the main reasons Joel decided to play piano.

After his parents divorced, his father went back to Austria and didn’t see him for over 20 years. His long-lost father relationship inspired the song “Vienna.”

Who Inspired His Song “Big Shot”

Mick and Bianca Jagger black and white photo
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

While many of Billy Joel’s songs were inspired by his own romantic relationships, “Big Shot” was based on someone else’s.

Joel wrote the song about the relationship between Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and his wife at the time, Bianca. He wrote it in Mick’s perspective and the two actually divorced soon after the song was released.

He Graduated High School At 43

Musician Billy Joel receives his diploma from Hicksville High School in Hicksville, New York on June 24, 1992
Tony Rivetti/Newsday RM via Getty Images
Tony Rivetti/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Billy Joel had a lot on his plate during his time at Hicksville High School. At the time he was working nights at a piano bar.

He ended up sleeping in the day of his final exams and did not have enough credits to graduate. After 25 years, he pleaded to his high school to let him graduate and they accepted.

He Originally Wasn’t Going To Sing His Songs

Billy Joel performing at the piano in 2014
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Billy Joel has one of the most distinctive singing voices around, but he didn’t always seem to think so. He started out as a studio musician and was most interested in songwriting.

Instead of writing the songs for himself, he used to enjoy writing them for other people. Later, he got advice to sing his own songs if he wanted to make it in the industry.

He Was In A Heavy Metal Band

Singer Billy Joel and drummer Jon Small of the rock band
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Fans of Billy Joel’s music like his blend of rock, jazz, and pop, but he has dabbled in other genres as well.

He and drummer Jon Small were part of the heavy metal band Attila. Joel confessed that audiences would never stay for their entire set because the music was too loud.

He Attended Woodstock

Carlos Santana and David Brown at Woodstock
Tucker Ransom/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Tucker Ransom/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Before hitting it big, a 20-year-old Billy Joel decided to ride his motorcycle to the Woodstock Music Festival. He was excited to see many of the iconic music acts including Jimi Hendrix and the Who.

However, Joel didn’t end up staying for the entire weekend because he was so grossed out by the hygiene.

“Laura” Is About This Particular Woman

Billy Joel and his mother Rosalind at the dedication of Billy Joel Park in Cold Spring Harbor
Thomas R. Koeniges/Newsday RM via Getty Images
Thomas R. Koeniges/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Many of Billy Joel’s songs are based on real people in his life. He wrote the song “Laura” about his mother Rosalind Joel.

The song has more of an angry tone with lyrics about a woman calling him regularly and being in control of the relationship. Joel’s drummer said the song was called “Laura” because it has the same amount of syllables as “mother”.

He Outsold Most Artists

billy joel playing an accordian
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Billy Joel’s music is a staple in American homes. In fact, he is the sixth most successful artist of all time.

The only musicians who have sold more albums than him are the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Garth Brooks, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles. He’s also the fourth-best-selling solo artist in the world.

He Doesn’t Like “We Didn’t Start The Fire”

Billy Joel performing in his home studio in his Los Angeles house in 1984
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

Many musicians have songs that they end up not liking. For Billy Joel, that song is “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

The song was actually inspired by John Lennon’s son Julian after seeing him in a recording studio. Joel doesn’t particularly like the melody, which he compared to the sound of a dentist’s drill.