Billy Joel’s second marriage was to an international supermodel (Christie Brinkley), he’s done tours with fellow piano rocker Elton John and has occasionally shared the stage with friends like Bruce Springsteen. Along the way’ Joel’s probably had his share of encounters with other famous people (in 2010 he told Howard Stern that the 1978 hit “Big Shot” was inspired by an evening he spent having dinner with Mick Jagger and his wife at the time, Bianca), but by and large Billy Joel has never really been much of a magnet for other celebrities in either his personal or professional life. With that in mind, here are ten well-known people that you might not have known had a connection to Billy Joel.
#10 – KATHLEEN TURNER
Billy Joel has been the musical guest on Saturday Night Live a number of times (including a 1981 appearance done remotely from his recording studio), and in 1989 he also performed in a sketch, an East German version of Hollywood Squares (this idea made sense at the time) in which he wore lederhosen (traditional garb for that part of Europe) and played the glockenspiel. He and the night’s guest host, actress Kathleen Turner, didn’t interact in the sketch, but they did tape a couple of memorable promos for the episode together.
#9 – GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO
All political careers go through highs and lows, but not many have gone through the varied extremes that New York State governor Andrew Cuomo did in 2020 and 2021: from being discussed as a possible presidential candidate to having to resign amidst a sex scandal. In less uncertain times, however, Cuomo conducted the marriage ceremony in 2015 when Billy Joel tied the knot for the fourth time, to Alex Roderick.
#8 – CAPTAIN BEEFHEART
Billy Joel has been headlining arenas since the late Seventies, so it’s difficult to imagine a time when he could have been an opening act, much less third on the bill at a venue which held fewer than 5,000 people. However, this was exactly the case at the Academy of Music in New York City back in February 1972: The J. Geils Band was the headliner, with the middle slot going to longtime cult rocker (and Frank Zappa cohort) Don Glen Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart.
#7 – PATTI AUSTIN
R&B, pop and jazz vocalist Patti Austin has been recording since the mid-Sixties is probably best known for two Top 10 duets with James Ingraham (“Baby, Come to Me” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing?”) in the early Eighties. In 1976 she also sang backup on Billy Joel’s commercial breakthrough album The Stranger, on the epic, gospel-inspired song “Everybody Has a Dream” (singer-songwriter Phoebe Snow, best known for her 1975 Top 5 hit “Poetry Man,” sings backup on the track as well).
#6 – JOEY LAWRENCE
In 1988, Billy Joel recorded the song “Why Should I Worry?” for the Disney animated feature Oliver & Company. In the movie the song was sung by a dog character named Dodger, and Joel was also hired to perform the character’s speaking voice. The lead voice in the film (playing Oliver, a kitten) was Joey Lawrence, at the time a successful child actor who in the early Nineties would co-star on the sitcom Blossom and become a teen heartthrob, right down to recording the requisite hit single (“Nothin’ My Love Can’t Fix”).
#5 – JOE LYNN TURNER
Earlier in his career Billy Joel tried his hand at heavy metal: along with drummer Jon Small, he was half of the duo Attila, which didn’t exactly conquer the world. Still, Joel would retain some connection to harder rock: in 1989 for his Storm Front album Joel recruited Joe Lynn Turner – the former lead singer of Rainbow, also at the time doing Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and who would later go on to front Deep Purple – to sing backup on two tracks, “State of Grace” and the #6 hit “I Go to Extremes.”
#4 – STEVE WINWOOD
For his first nine studio albums, Billy Joel never really made a practice of recruiting big-name guest stars for the recordings. This changed a bit with The Bridge (1988), which included a duet with Billy Joel’s idol, Ray Charles (“Baby Grand”) in addition to featuring the great Steve Winwood playing a Hammond B3 organ on the record’s finale, “Getting Closer” (a fitting choice, since the track, written by Billy Joel, definitely sounds like it was inspired by Winwood’s sound).
#3 – MARLEE MATLIN
In 1988 Billy Joel became one of many, many celebrities who made an appearance on Sesame Street. Joel sang “Just the Way You Are” to Oscar the Grouch, with new lyrics for the occasion (“Just be grouchy, really grouchy/You’ve done it pretty well so far…”). Appearing with them in the segment was Oscar-winning (the other kind of Oscar) actress Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God), who signed all the words through ASL as Joel sang them.
#2 – DEE SNIDER
In the early Eighties, Billy Joel stated in interviews that he wished he were being asked more to guest on other people’s records. The call finally came, but it wasn’t from Eric Clapton or Linda Ronstadt or another artist that one might expect to want to work with Joel. Rather, it was heavy metal band Twisted Sister, whose lead singer Dee Snider (and Joel’s fellow Long Islander) recruited the piano man to play on the track “Be Chrool to Your Scuel” from their 1985 album Come Out and Play (and this one deep cut turned out to be an all-star affair on which Alice Cooper, Clarence Clemons and Brian Setzer all appear as well).
#1 – CYNDI LAUPER
In Billy Joel’s entire solo recording career (he had earlier been a member of two recording bands, neither of which went anywhere), he’s only ever given a co-writing credit to one other person. That would be Cyndi Lauper, who shares equal credit with Billy Joel for the song “Code of Silence” from the 1986 release The Bridge. Lauper apparently came in and helped Billy Joel finish the song, which he was having difficulty with. It’s not quite a duet, but Cyndi Lauper does lend her distinct voice with background vocals (turnabout being fair play, Billy Joel sang on Lauper’s track “Maybe He’ll Know” on her True Colors album that same year).
10 People You Didn’t Know Had Connections To Billy Joel article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021
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