Billy Joel released Piano Man in 1973 without knowing how iconic the title track would become.
The song “Piano Man” is a classic that reminds so many people of a particular group of friends or a period of their lives that they can look back on happily in the sense of good memories and sadly in the sense of longing for the past.
The emotional classic never fails to invoke some kind of nostalgia whenever it’s played. Some listeners might interpret the lyrics with a sense of joy because of a group of people gathered in an old, smoky bar. Others might focus more on the authentic sense of sadness and loneliness that Joel sings about.
Almost everyone knows the bar glass sway of the members of the audience from the song’s official video.
Chris Epting, the author of If There’s a Bustle in Your Hedgegrow: 50 Lyrical Lines That Helped Define the 1970s, shared the story behind the lyrics of “Piano Man” during an appearance on the John DeBella Show.
Joel played regularly in a piano bar in Los Angeles called the Executive Room during the early 1970s.
“A lot of characters in the song ‘Piano Man’ actually were people who literally circled that bar at the old Executive Room, which was really nothing more than one of these small cocktail lounges,” Epting said.
His talent pushed the bar patrons to ask Billy Joel, “Man, what are you doing here?”
Joel’s success on the big stage for decades has confirmed their appreciation for a talented artist, as he has become one of the best-selling musicians in history.
The song introduces five characters that transport its listeners inside a smoky, rundown bar with an incredible sense of authenticity. The powerful lyrics, the fading harmonica, and the feeling of nostalgia have helped “Piano Man” withstand the test of time.