The “Piano Man” who became one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time with such hits as “Just the Way You Are,” “Uptown Girl” and “Allentown” is being awarded the nation’s highest honor Sunday for influencing American culture through the arts.
Billy Joel joins Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, opera star Martina Arroyo and actress Shirley MacLaine in receiving the Kennedy Center Honors. All of them have been playing music, dancing or singing since they were children — and have never stopped.
Joel said the honor stands apart from his six Grammys.
“This is different. It’s our nation’s capital,” he told The Associated Press. “This is coming more from my country than just people who come to see me. It’s a little overwhelming.”
The 64-year-old musician born in the Bronx has been playing the piano since he was a boy, growing up on New York’s Long Island. There was always music in the house, he said. His mother sang. His father played the piano.
Impressing girls, though, is what hooked Joel into making a career of music, he said.