Monday, December 30, 2013

A Legendary Singer Who Blends "Sound and Sense"

All five of the the Kennedy Center honorees this year made major contributions to the performing arts. But it was the last honoree who received the biggest applause and the most touching tribute: the one and only Billy Joel. The reason can be summed up in three words from Alexander Pope: "Sound and sense."

Bill Joel's tunes are as catchy as they are diverse. He's written ballads and barbershop, jazz and rock, classical and pop -- all with melodies that everyone can follow.

But it was not just the music that captured the attention of so many. It was the stories he told. Joel didn't just write about love. He wrote about the emotions we face trying to perform ("Pressure"); the challenges of growing up ("Movin' Out"); and ordinary people just trying to make a living, from the "Piano Man" in a bar, to the factory workers of "Allentown." It's that combination of the music and the words, the sound and the sense, that allowed Joel and his songs to become so popular.

In September, I'll be seeing Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. You might think it's a long time to wait for a concert. But in the lifespan of a legend, it's only a moment.

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