William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American musician, singer-songwriter, and composer. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his first major hit and signature song of the same name as well as the similarly named 1973 album, he has led a commercially successful career as a solo artist since the 1970s, having released 12 studio albums from 1971 to 1993 as well as one studio album in 2001. He is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, as well as the seventh-best-selling recording artist and the fourth-best-selling solo artist in the United States, with over 150 million records sold worldwide. His 1985 compilation album, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2, is one of the best-selling albums in the United States.
Joel was born in 1949 in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in Long Island, both places that influenced his music. Growing up, he took piano lessons at his mother's insistence. After dropping out of high school to pursue a musical career, Joel took part in two short-lived bands, The Hassles and Attila, before signing a record deal with Family Productions and kicking off a solo career in 1971 with his first release Cold Spring Harbor. In 1972, Joel caught the attention of Columbia Records after a live radio performance of the song "Captain Jack" became popular in Philadelphia, prompting him to sign a new record deal with the company and release his second album, Piano Man, in 1973. After releasing the albums Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles in 1974 and 1976 respectively, Joel released his critical and commercial breakthrough album, The Stranger, in 1977. This album became Columbia's best-selling release, selling over 10 million copies and spawning several hit singles, including "Just the Way You Are", "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)", "Only the Good Die Young", and "She's Always a Woman"; another song on this album, "Scenes from an Italian Restaurant", is Joel's favorite of his own songs and has become a staple of his live shows.
Across the 20 years of his solo career, Joel produced 33 top 40 hits in the U.S., all of which he wrote himself, and three of which ("It's Still Rock and Roll to Me", "Tell Her About It", and "We Didn't Start the Fire") peaked at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Joel has been nominated for 23 Grammy Awards, winning five of them, including Album of the Year for 52nd Street. Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1992), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1999), and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame (2006). In 2001, Joel received the Johnny Mercer Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2013, Joel received the Kennedy Center Honors for influencing American culture through the arts. Since the advent of his solo career, Joel has held a successful touring career, holding live performances across the globe in which he sings several of his written songs.