Mr. PopulaR

      46 Comments on Mr. PopulaR
Photo: "American Masters--The Boomer List

Photo of Billy Joel from “American Masters: The Boomer List”)

He’s 65 now, short and stocky, and looks more like an everyman than a piano man.  He’s been in a mental hospital and rehab, wrecked at least three cars and a motorcycle, lost two fortunes, and has three ex-wives including a supermodel and a woman half his age.  Yet there wasn’t an empty seat at Madison Square Garden last Thursday as Billy Joel played his monthly concert. Despite a checkered life, he is, without a doubt, adored by his audiences.

We see how quickly entertainers’ careers can flounder when they have personal struggles and public controversies.  Their public images suffer (examples: Justin Bieber, Charlie Sheen, Ray Rice, Lindsay Lohan), and they’re often mocked and shunned by people in their own industry.  Some recover from their issues and regain public favor; others never do.  Billy Joel has navigated the negatives in his life and has enjoyed the public’s goodwill throughout his career, especially now. Here’s why:

First, there’s his music.  His prolific catalog of hits places him among the biggest superstars.  His songs’ lyrics speak of people we know and are, events and places we’ve seen and been, and take us to the times we heard them and sang along.  And sing along we did at the Garden–more than 18 thousand people belting out “Piano Man”, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and many others.

Locally this summer, Newsday’sThat’s SO Long Island” competition saw 520,000 voters place Joel number one–ahead of 64 foods, attractions, celebrities and activities including Jones Beach!  He told Newsday, “My perspective of things all comes from a Long Island point of view.”  Joel was born, raised and still lives on Long Island, calling it his “favorite place” in a state tourism ad.  He’s raised money for Long Island Cares, Sandy Relief, and joins others cleaning a beach each year on behalf of the North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association and Friends of the Bay.

Billy Joel’s a superstar who looks and thinks like us, and he spends his time and money on our behalf, too.  This–and his wonderful music–is why the Piano Man remains Mr. Popular.  Your thoughts?

46 thoughts on “Mr. PopulaR

  1. Makayla Sapienza

    I haven’t though about Billy Joel in a while but now that I do I’m completely re-impressed by his career. Especially viewing him from the point of view as a music student, Billy Joel is pretty much the prime example of what the music industry has to offer. He is one of very few celebrities that has the fan base to host a monthly concert at MSG, inspired an award-winning Broadway musical and has written many hits.

  2. sophia1212

    It is never easy making a comeback from scandals. Many try, but not all succeed. The fact that he owned his mistakes and didn’t try to conceal them, helped him a lot. He gave himself a more human look, which allowed people to connect with him, making it easier to move forward.

  3. Laura L.

    Being a Long Islander my entire life, I have grown up listening to Billy Joel and am well aware of the impact he has made here. But I was not familiar with some of the struggles he has dealt with in his life. Being such a star, it is amazing to me how his previous situations have not tainted his image. His PR people have done a really great job!

  4. nicole_lombardo

    Last January I was lucky enough to see Billy Joel live on New Years. The tickets were a birthday present from my boyfriend and saying I was spoiled was an understatement. I was so over the moon excited because I have been listening to Billy Joel since birth. Vienna is my all time favorite song and can be on repeat for the rest of my life and I would be 100 percent okay with it. I remember though, that when I was telling my mom, who is an incredible women with STRONG opinions, she thought it was horrible that my boyfriend was just giving such a horrible man his hard earned money. My mom loves music and does enjoy Billy Joel, however, she will never forget someones character.

    I felt this related because my mom grew up with Billy Joel. Cold Spring Harbor came out in 1971 when my mom was a teenager getting into music. She followed his career and all of his ups and downs in life. I, on the other hand, only grew up with the music. I learned about his life after I heard to music. I feel that this makes it easier for me to be open and not judge his life and let it influence how I feel about him. My mother, however, had a different experience and because of that I think its why she will never forget the type of person he is and never purchase anything that will give him the slightest bit of money.

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  6. amarsh6

    Billy Joel has certainly changed the music industry throughout his career. This is an excellent example of someone who has taken fame and fortune and not completely ruined it like some of the celebrities today. His music and songs still stand the test of time and continue to be hits that everyone knows. Although he has gone through so much in his lifetime, his song will always remain. I love this tribute to him and putting him in the right light that he should be in.

  7. alexisgionesi

    To be honest I don’t really listen to Billy Joel. However, when thinking of Billy Joel I’ve never seen him in a negative light. After reading this post and realizing all the negative things he has done it is kind of amazing that he still has such a great reputation.

  8. Jessica Vallario

    Can Billy Joel do no wrong? It seems despite all the trials and tribulations he has undergone, he still remains at the center of his fans hearts. I believe his vast amount of talent may have something to do with this. I also credit his ability to bounce back. Other stars who have undergone similar “bad press” can’t seem to make a comeback quite like Billy’s. The entertainer demonstrates true resilience. I also believe his involvement in charity programs have helped his rebuild his reputation. In comparison to stars like Justin Bieber, Billy differs in that he puts his words into action. He doesn’t just claim he’ll change and do better, he actually does better. Billy Joel may have had some ups and downs, but I think its safe to say that he is a good citizen and even better musician. Go Billy, go!

  9. Danielle

    Personally, I grew up listening to Billy Joel and couldn’t imagine viewing him in a negative light. I think when people are influenced by his music more than his life story they keep him in the spotlight. We’re all human; we make mistakes. Joel had his share of mistakes but his music keeps the public satisfied. That’s extremely obvious from the success of his most recent concert!

  10. Meredith O'Connor

    Billy Joel is brillant in my opinion, and I personally view him as one of my favorite artists right next to Queen. Despite his personal life, before reading this, I haven’t heard much besides rumors of- if he is nice, or not so nice. However, he can do what few artists can, and produce songs that are so diverse from each other, making it hard to put him in a genre. His music holds excitement and elements that are often lost today, that I try my best to keep relevant. I notice a lot of musical similarities between Billy Joel and Queen.

  11. liadzayit

    Public image is a huge part of being a celebrity, especially if you are geared toward younger children. In this day and age a lot of celebrities are trying to keep their standards as high as possible but just like everyone, we all make mistakes. The fact that Billy Joel has been through some rough patches in his life and is now trying to turn that around and fix his image is HUGE! Most celebrities are not able to do that, such as Charlie Sheen, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan and many others. They may all say they want to be better but taking action is bigger than what you really say. Billy Joel is in icon to many people from ages 10+, and despite all he has done if a fan truly inspires him they would love and be a fan no matter what he has been through and be there when he has his ups and downs, that is what a true fan dones.

  12. Anjelica Johnson

    I didn’t really know a ton about Billy Joel’s career except he’s still relevant even today to a younger generation (I have several friends that went to his MSG concert). It’s interesting that he has managed to keep his career going even after the countless negatives that he has gone through. I think his story gives a little hope to other celebrities who have “hit rock bottom” right now if they can get over their negative spots.

  13. Devin Jaffar

    Billy Joel is a talented musician and he is also a good person. Even though he had a few problems in his personal life, many people will remember what he did for the community and what he gave back to help the community when it needed the extra help.

  14. Sarah Ramos

    Billy Joel is a talented musician that has proved that having talent can overshadow other struggles in their public image. It’s great to have examples like him for other struggling artists and celebrities can look up to.

  15. Natalia Dutt

    To start off I had no idea that Billy Joel had such a rough life. It really does show what good PR can do. I always saw him as pretty much the face of Long Island. It really shows that you can clean up your image super easily.

  16. Deana Meccariello

    Gotta love Billy Joel! He really is Long Island and you never know where he’ll turn up. He certainly has kept his image in a positive light. Not many people can have an indefinite spot on stage at the garden.

  17. laurelroseo

    With little knowledge of Billy Joel and his Long Island roots I can still see why his fans adore him. He seems to be involved in the community. Billy Joel has done well in deterring bad press with good press and so naturally, his fans remain loyal.

  18. Elizah Morales

    I know very little about Billy Joel and his music; however, I can see why his fans remain so loyal to him throughout all of his hardships. It is clear that he gives off a down to earth sense to the people he comes across. Moreover, people love a celebrity who can relate to them on several different levels. Additionally, the fact that he has raised money for so many organizations is extraordinary. By raising such large amount of money he helps create a somewhat positive image for himself, especially, since he has experience trouble with his general public image. Overall, when a celebrity gives off a humble vide to their fan base, it can attract more loyal and genuine fans that can sustain their popularity.

  19. Daniel Walsh

    It is nice to know that such a talented and recognized man calls Long Island his home and still shows the effort to give back. I myself am not a fan of Mr. Joel but I know he has world renounced popularity and touched a lot of people through his work. Every person has to overcome adversity in their life and Mr. Joel has proven to stand the test of time and come back better than ever and that it truly admirable.

  20. Areanna Rufrano

    Billy Joel seems like a very private man that faces many personal issues. I think that he has endured a number of obstacles that any average person could encounter. Maybe that’s why he is still likable. His misfortunes and recoveries make him relateable to the public, which makes them empathetic. He has also done nothing that would typically irritate and upset the public like other celebrities have in the past. Although he’s problems might be on a grander scale, his philanthropic actions have helped him maintain a good image. It also helps that his legendary career and adored fan-base are the supportive structures in his life.

  21. Danielle Notaro

    I always enjoy hearing about celebrities who actually do good. Not only is his music meaningful and based off of his life and experiences, Billy Joel also gives back a large amount. Realistically, we all have problems, yet celebrities are always being watched, which is why these problems may seem worse than they are. Billy Joel isn’t the first person to go to rehab or be on this third marriage.

  22. Doug Gillies

    Billy Joel is famous for his music and in Long island he is a participating resident. Despite his rocky background he continues to do the right things to gain goodwill. Celebrities are still humans like you and I so why should we look down on them for things that could happen to us. I think the spot light makes it easy to scrutinize and place them under a microscope. We need to give them more credit for living their lives with all the added pressure they deal with.

  23. erikfreitas

    The reason Billy Joel’s reputation is so good is twofold. On one hand, he is an extremely decorated and loved musician, and on the other hand, he gives a great deal back to his community and the global community through charities and donations. This double whammy of PR excellence certainly overshadows his misgivings, and allows them to be sort of swept under the rug or forgotten. Billy Joel doesn’t come off as a bad person,he comes off as a good person who makes mistakes. Most people see themselves as good people who make mistakes, and in that regard fans can relate to Joel.

  24. Amy Schildwaster

    The best way to keep a positive public image is to make people like you. The reason Lindsay Lohan became so wrapped up and consumed by her scandalous actions is because she isn’t likeable. She has never stepped forward for a cause, she is just known for her negative actions. I think it is really important for younger actors to start establishing rapport with the public so when they do mess up we are able to forgive them.

  25. michaela marano

    Despite the generational differences, you can still find be bopping my head to “We didn’t Start the Fire”. However, i think this post is not just intended to take time to rave about how talented Billy Joel is or how is music has lasted through the years. Whether you sing along to every song or have never heard of him, it’s his humbleness, honestly, and loyalty to the place that he came from that maintains his popularity. Although he has made extensive mistakes, he has been able to return from them by handling them respectfully and properly. His Long Island pride has also helped him. He honors where he came from, where it all began. He has not let his fame and fortune take over that aspect of his life. He also gives back to his community. People like relate-ability and reliability. Those two characteristics are curtail for maintaing a good image. He gives Long Island a decent bragging right, and despite where your from,everyone has at least a little bit of home-town pride.

  26. Felicia Colavito

    Though Billy Joel is not an artist form my time period, I have always loved his music because of my family. The older generations have introduced Billy Joel to the present generations, which I think is amazing. People my age and younger are at his concerts singing along and even attend with their parents sometimes. I knew a little about his personal life prior to this post, but I never viewed it to be as bad as the other famous people you mentioned such as Lindsay Lohan. I guess in someway his well-respected reputation plays a bigger role in my mind than his bad character choices. It is amazing how his background, being from the island like myself, and the fundraisers he takes part in can draw people’s attention and blur out the bad. I think his lengthy career is very rare, and I will continue to sing along to his lyrics in the car with my mom!

  27. Gabrielle Furman

    Public image is a big part of being a celebrity. As explained Billy Joel has gone through hard times and was able to fix his image. I think that this partly has to do with relating to “regular” people because it shows that we all have something in common and not everyone is perfect.

  28. nixablevins

    It is interesting to look at the Public Relations perspective of celebrities. There are many celebrities who have damaged their image. However, it seems in many cases, the public is often willing to forgive (even if it is after an extended amount of time). Since it seems that he has gone out of his way to help his community, the people who might have once resented him, more than likely forgot or forgave him for his actions.

    It is interesting to see that even when some might resent celebrities for their actions, true fans will usually continue to be fans.

  29. jheiden1

    Personally, I’ve never really followed Billy Joel’s music or career. With that being said, I’ve never heard anything about his negative image either. I think it’s apparent that Joel’s fans are committed to him through thick and thin. When someone can bring so much to a community, people seem to be much more understanding and forgiving with mistakes.

  30. kcormi2

    Although I am a Billy Joel fan, I have never been too interested in his personal life and the mistakes he has made. He is different from celebrities you mentioned such as Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan because despite personal struggles, his focus is on his career. In addition, he does good for the community and shows appreciation for his fans which almost makes up for the rough patches he has gone through and helped him to consistently come out on top. This can be taken as an important lesson for PR professionals in the entertainment world.

  31. bharran

    I love this post, especially because who it is about! Billy Joel is such an icon and despite all his ups and downs he has always remained relevant and someone we love. Since I am from Long Island, I love that I have a personal connection to his music, places he goes, and things he sees. I live out east and during the summer I have casually seen Billy Joel on his porch and throughout the town of Sag Harbor. Pretty cool! I think as long as a celebrity, public figure, etc. takes care of the bad publicity or parts of their life then the good can always overweigh the bad.

  32. Sarah Abuharaz

    I’ve listened to a lot of music by Billy Joel but I never knew he had so much scandal in his lifetime. It’s hard for me not to sympathize those who are constantly in the public eye even if they’ve done some terrible things. It’s terrible because talent becomes hidden by their mistakes and scandals. Billy Joel is one of few celebrities that made it out of their hardships on a positive note.

  33. Rebecca Costa

    I have always thought that celebrities, whose lives are constantly being judged, should be given a little slack for things such as rehab, divorce etc, but I can’t say I had heard about Billy Joel’s scandals and stints prior to this post. All of the positive things that were mentioned about his charity work overshadow most negative things in his life. Other performers on the other hand such as Amanda Bynes or Justin Bieber, who don’t give back or aren’t as influential are scrutinized more and that is what I have read about. They are not as easily forgiven because they don’t do much for society besides give gossip magazines something to write about.

  34. Whitney Shepherd (@WhitneyPRGirl)

    Billy Joel still remains a public figure that generation after generation people look up to. He stays true to his roots, where his is from, how he was raised, and who his audience is. Many may consider Billy Joel “old-school” and that may be one of the reasons he is still around today and his shows are still selling out. I am sure every artist in todays time would love to have the success of popularity that Billy Joel has had, but more often that not celebrities of this generation spend too much time constantly changing their image and look and not sticking to who they are.

  35. bibianabogues

    I didn’t know much about Billy Joel prior to reading this, but I have heard his name often. I had no idea of the struggles he has gone through in his life, and all of the great things he does for Long Island. It’s great to see a public figure giving back and not having everything about themselves. Joel has created a positive image for himself and even with all he has gone through has managed to keep it that way. His connection to the Long Island community and fans has to have played a role in his long term success.

  36. Courtney Zanosky

    Like so many of the other comments state, I had never known that Billy Joel has had such negatives in his life. To me, he was just a voice on a CD that my dad and I would sing along to in the car. The fact that so many people are clueless about these things just goes to show that he handles the rough spots in his life so differently than many of the other celebrities who do actually receive bad PR for their flaws. He is able to keep such a good image because he creates good music, gives back to society, and doesn’t try to stand in the spotlight like many other celebrities do. If you ask me, Billy Joel does it right.

  37. Ashley P.

    Prior to reading this article, I knew almost nothing about Billy Joel’s life and career. After reading about some of the hardships and drama he has had in his past, it is nice to see that despite it all, he still continues to have the support of his fans. You definitely touched on how all his “good” PR (volunteering, donating, etc) almost make up for the “bad” PR he has received, which is definitely a good thing to take note of because it shows how important one’s image is, and what can be done to change it.

  38. Sarah Lopez

    Being a celebrity in the public eye can most certainly has its ups and downs. When I think of Billy Joel, I do not think of anything related to the negative aspects of his life that he’s had to deal with. In my opinion, I think a lot of it has to do with great work done by Billy Joel’s publicist, his own commitment to the art of music, and his commitment to his supporters . At some point in life, everyone encounters their own obstacles and struggles. The difference is that, celebrities go through their rough patches with the world watching. It seems that Billy Joel has made a connection with both the Long Island community and his fans, which is crucial for his reputation. I think it’s great that his fans have stood by him through these rough times and did not forget about his talent and persona.

  39. Gia Palomo

    I personally dont know too much about Billy Joel aside from hearing Piano Man a few times over the course of my lifetime. I didnt think that he went through such hardships before but its good to know that through all that adversity he still manages to have such a good career. Maybe its because he knows that long island will always have his back.

  40. maxeisenberg8

    “Captain Jack” has helped me jam out when stuck in traffic or bored and I grew up listening to the sounds of Billy Joel. He is a true music icon, no doubt. His fame has certainly overshadowed the negatives in his life and I think the fact that he is so good is why is negative publicity is of little concern to his fans. He’s stood the test of time and I understand that being in the limelight that long can cause many people to crumble under the pressures when they are constantly in the public-eye. I fully support giving the guy another more chances because in return he’s given us incredible music and motivation.

  41. Vanessa Felder

    When I think of Billy Joel I think of his song “Uptown Girl” and all his greatest hits. To be honest I had no idea of his personal struggles. All I ever heard growing up was how great he is. With that said, based off of what was mentioned above, he obviously took the necessary steps to regain public favor. Now if he was like Justin Bieber and all these other celebrities who never seem to learn their lesson, then I think that his image would be different. But the fact that he has overcome his mistakes, is selfless and considered “regular”, his struggles are overlooked and do not define him.

  42. nikkigyftopoulos

    I think you have touched upon points that PR professionals deal with everyday. When obstacles or crises occur for a celebrity or client, one of the many questions is will the person/client’s reputation bounce back and will the audience forgive. I think this always depends on the circumstances, but most huge superstars like Billy Joel are forgiven because of the positive contributions their work has made on society. For example, look at Michael Jackson and all of the controversy he had during the later part of his career. He was scolded and looked down upon by many for his actions, but his death brought the world into mourning and people still bought his post-death album.

  43. Jenna Delio

    I had no idea that Billy Joel had so many struggles in his past. I think that depending on the person that is in the media being criticized as well as how well they handle it and make up for the wrong doing makes a huge difference as to how people will look at them. Although Billy Joel made mistakes in his past and had his own battles he still does good for people and has come a long way from that past and that is why I believe he is still so popular and idolized.

  44. Lyndi Catania

    I don’t think of the rough patches when I think of Billy Joel. I think of his loved music and everything he does for New York and Long Island. He didn’t let his struggles define him or stop him from doing good for Long Island. He deserves to be the loved man he is, while other celebrities completely lost their chance. Amanda Bynes has been in the news recently. Although she did do a decent job staying out of the public eye for a while, she still came right back into the public eye with yet another negative event.

  45. Meghan Connor

    I actually was clueless about Billy Joel’s past and I think that says something. I am well aware of Lindsay Lohan’s drug usage and Ray Rice’s violence in his relationship, so why didn’t I know about Billy Joel? I think Joel’s artistic abilities surpass the negatives he has in his life. Discussing his life takes no comparison to belting out one of his greatest hits, Piano Man, at a concert. Billy Joel has such a reputation in the music industry that his rehab check ins and car accidents aren’t placed on a high scale of importance. Good for him!

  46. Ashley Iadanza

    It’s nice to see when the public allows for celebrities to go through hardships and overcome them without constant criticism. Until this article, I didn’t even know that he had gone through any of these bad spots in his life, I only know about the positive things he does.


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