In the song “Modern Woman”, Billy Joel tells us “Rock and roll just used to be for kicks and nowadays it’s politics”. That tune came out back in 1986 off of The Bridge album, but the sentiment rings more true than ever right about now. Sadly, many entertainers feel compelled to spew their political views to the masses even during concerts. The man who wrote “The Entertainer”, however disagrees with that approach.
Joel’s take has more of a “Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone” spin to it. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine, ‘The Piano Man’ weighed in on President Trump and those celebrities who continue to tell us what they think we should do and how we should think. Time and time again, concert goers pay top dollar to hear the music they love only to be inundated with the political feelings and leanings of the singer or band as soon as they come through the turnstiles. That’s not Joel’s style.
“I try to stay out of politics,” Joel told Rolling Stone. “I am a private citizen and I have a right to believe in my own political point of view, but I try not to get up on a soapbox and tell people how to think. I’ve been to shows where people start haranguing the audience about what’s going on politically and I’m thinking, “You know, this isn’t why I came here.” As a matter of fact, one of the biggest cheers of the night comes when we do “Piano Man” and I sing, “They know that it’s me that they’re coming to see to forget about life for a while,” and the audience lets out this huge “ahhhh” and I say, “OK, yeah, don’t forget that.” We’re more like court jesters than court philosophers.”
This will not sit well with Hollywood elites. How dare one of their own speak words of commonsense? But, Joel has never been afraid to go against the grain. Over his remarkable career, Joel has stood up to critics. He made history by touring the Soviet Union. He’s also done a lot of good for veterans, police officers, and fishermen. Billy Joel has always been his own man. Individualism never sits well with collective loving elites.
What will probably boil the blood of Trump haters the most in this case is the fact that the critique of the pompous musicians among us comes from a man who is pretty much a liberal himself. Joel is a self described atheist. He did not support Trump’s run for the White House. Joel has taken multiple shots at Trump pre and post Inauguration Day. He even played a benefit show for Barack Obama. Yet, Joel still called out the sanctimonious whiners that have taken over much of the music industry. If Ted Nugent or Kid Rock said these words, liberals would have their usual talking points to refer too, but because they believe they own the Billy Joels of the world, heads are sure to explode.
Joel’s liberal leanings are a bit curious. The New Yorker often talks tough on and off stage. On many things, he makes a lot of sense. In some instances he actually sounds quite conservative. But Joel like George Carlin and others before, proves that sometimes a great performer comes along who happens to have diverse political views. Just because someone disagrees with you on an issue doesn’t mean that same person can’t demonstrate good judgement on another.
Billy Joel may not be a Trump man. But that’s what makes all of this so relevant. Joel is telling the entertainment world that their opinion is no more important than that of the steel worker in Pennsylvania, the guy in the grocery store saving his pennies for someday, or the waitress practicing politics. In fact, the November election showed us sometimes those opinions are much more powerful than those coming from millionaire musicians.
And so it goes–while most of Hollywood will surely continue to act like big men on Mulberry Street and keep their careless talk coming, Billy Joel’s honesty and attempt at a code of silence is much more than a minor variation. Joel’s willingness to call out the shameless is one of the nicest surprises we’ve heard from an entertainment big shot in the longest time.
Follow Kevin Scholla on Twitter @kevinscholla