Billy JoelRock | 2006
Having sold more than 150 million records, Billy Joel ranks as one of most popular recording artists of all time. His solo career began with the album Cold Spring Harbor, which was recorded at Ultrasonic Studios in Hempstead. In 1972, he packed up and moved to California, where he played lounge piano under the pseudonym Bill Martin—an experience that would eventually lead to his signature song, “Piano Man.” Columbia Records president Clive Davis caught a performance by Joel in Puerto Rico in 1972 and signed him to the label. Joel’s first Columbia album was titled Piano Man, and the title song would go on to peak at No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The follow-up LP would yield the Top 40 single “The Entertainer,” but it was 1977’s The Stranger that turned the kid raised in Hicksville, Long Island, into a superstar. The album offered up four Top 40 singles in the U.S. alone, reached the No. 2 on the Billboard charts, and sold more than 6 million copies. In his career, Joel has had 33 Top 40 hits and 23 Grammy nominations, and he has been presented with numerous awards, including a Grammy Legend Award in 1990 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Johnny Mercer Award in 1992. In December 2013, Madison Square Garden announced Joel as the first-ever music franchise of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Joining the ranks of The Garden’s other original franchises—including the New York Knicks, Rangers and Liberty—Joel began performing a show a month starting on January 27, 2014—a regular gig that he continues to this day.