Billy Joel’s Foray into Folk Music

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Billy Joel is one of the most popular musicians of our time, and he’s dabbled in a variety of genres over the course of his career. Recently, he’s been exploring the world of folk music, and we’ve been loving it!

Keep up with the latest from Billy Joel by following his folk music adventures right here on our blog.

Billy Joel’s Folk Music Beginnings

Billy Joel is best known as a pop and rock musician, but he actually started his musical career playing folk music in New York City. Joel was influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie and began playing in various Greenwich Village clubs. He even released an album of folk songs, titled “Cold Spring Harbor,” in 1971. Let’s take a closer look at Billy Joel’s beginnings in the folk music scene.

Joel’s love for folk music

Billy Joel’s love for folk music began at an early age. His father, Howard, was a pianist and composer who had a deep appreciation for the genre. Howard would often play folk songs on the piano, and young Billy would sing along. When he was just 11 years old, Billy wrote his first song, “Captain Jack,” which was heavily influenced by the folk music he had been exposed to.

Folk music continued to be an important part of Billy Joel’s life as he grew older. In 1967, he released his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, which included several folk-inspired songs. He also began performing with a folk group called the Hassles throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Billy Joel’s foray into folk music came to an end in the mid-1970s when he began moving in a more pop-oriented direction. However, he has said that his love for folk music has never gone away and that it still influences his songwriting to this day.

Joel’s first folk music performance

Joel’s first foray into folk music came at the age of 16 when he performed at the open mic night at the gaslight cafe in new york city. he went on to play at various other clubs in the area, including the bitter end and the towne crier.

Billy Joel’s Folk Music Recordings

Billy Joel’s first foray into folk music came in 1971 with the release of his album Cold Spring Harbor. The album was not well received by critics, but Joel was praised for his songwriting and piano playing. Joel would continue to experiment with folk music throughout his career, release several more folk albums, and even win a Grammy for his work in the genre.

Joel’s first folk music album

Billy Joel’s first folk music album was titled _Cold Spring Harbor_. It was released in 1971 by Family Productions and Columbia Records. The album was not a commercial success, selling only about 50,000 copies. It has since been reissued several times, including a deluxe edition in 2012.

The album was recorded in 1970, after Joel had moved from Los Angeles back to his hometown of Long Island. He had recently divorced his first wife, and the album reflects his somber mood at the time. The songs are mostly about lost love and heartbreak, with a few songs about Joel’s parents and growing up on Long Island.

Despite the album’s lack of commercial success, it is generally well-regarded by critics. AllMusic gives it 4 out of 5 stars, calling it “an impressive debut that announced Billy Joel as a promising new voice in Singer/Songwriter circles.”

Joel’s second folk music album

Billy Joel released his second folk music album, “Cold Spring Harbor”, in 1971. The album was not as successful as his debut album, “Piano Man”, but it did contain the song “She’s Got a Way”, which would later become one of his most popular songs.

Billy Joel’s Folk Music Legacy

Billy Joel is best known for his pop hits, but he also dabbled in folk music. In 1971, he released his first album, Cold Spring Harbor, which was a mix of pop and folk. He continued to experiment with folk music on his next two albums, Streetlife Serenade and Turnstiles. Although he never fully embraced the folk music genre, he did leave a lasting impression on the folk music scene.

Joel’s influence on folk music

Joel’s love for various types of music is evident in his work, with the genres he’s explored including classical, rock, pop and even Latin music. One genre that’s often overlooked when discussing Joel’s work is folk music, but the singer-songwriter actually spent some time early in his career playing this style of music.

Before he found success with his pop hits, Joel was a member of the duo Attila, which played a mix of folk and rock. The group released one self-titled album in 1970 before disbanding. Joel then began a solo career, but he continued to explore his interest in folk music on his 1971 debut album, “Cold Spring Harbor.”

While “Cold Spring Harbor” is primarily a folk album, it also includes elements of other genres, such as blues (“She’s Got a Way”) and country (“Tomorrow Is Today”). Despite its genre-bending sound, the album wasn’t a commercial success and it failed to chart.

Despite the lack of success for “Cold Spring Harbor,” Joel continued to play folk music live and he even covered Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” on his 1974 album, “Streetlife Serenade.” While Joel eventually found more success with pop hits like “Just the Way You Are” and “Uptown Girl,” his early foray into folk music shows that he has always been willing to experiment with different sounds.

Joel’s impact on the folk music scene

Billy Joel is best known as a pop and rock singer-songwriter, but he also dabbled in folk music early in his career. His first album, “Cold Spring Harbor,” was mostly folk-inspired songs, and he continued to explore that genre on subsequent albums like “Piano Man” and “The Stranger.” Although he never achieved the same level of commercial success with his folk tunes as he did with his more pop-oriented hits, Joel’s forays into folk music nonetheless left a lasting impression on the genre.

Joel’s folk songs are characterized by their simple melodies and straightforward lyrics. He often wrote about personal experiences and emotions, which helped to give his music an intimate feel. He also incorporated elements of other genres into his folk tunes, such as blues and country. This helped to give his music a unique flavor that set it apart from other artists working in the genre at the time.

Although Joel is no longer active in the folk music scene, his influence can still be felt today. His songs have been covered by numerous artists, and he is credited with helping to popularize the genre among mainstream audiences. If you’re a fan of Billy Joel, be sure to check out his early work in the folk genre – you might be surprised at how good it is!

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