Congratulations to Billy Joel on winning Newsday's "That's So Long Island" contest.
In 1988, Newsday conducted a poll that had some similarities to the one that was recently completed. Readers were asked to name their "Favorite Person From Long Island History."
No Lindsay Lohan votes here! Among the influential names mentioned were: Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Moses, Walt Whitman and, you guessed it, Billy Joel.
My submission nominating Billy Joel, stated, "Who else can so eloquently take the thoughts that we cannot express and compose them in such a melodious and appealing fashion?"
What fans may not have known is that Billy Joel wrote a song for his mother, who died recently, entitled simply "Rosalinda" (not to be confused with "Rosalinda's Eyes"). He calls it "A lullaby that I wrote for my mother."
In this poignant composition, Billy reflects:
We've gone away.
Still you stay.
Being what you've always been.
And doing what you've always done.
How can we give you back the time
You gave to us when you were young?
Billy's heartfelt lyrics add to his impressive catalog of songs and easily justify why he has received so many accolades throughout the years.
I'm sure that Billy Joel's mom, Rosalind, with her love for music, would have been especially proud that her son will be honored in November with the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
I mention Rosalind Joel's love for music based on her early years as a performer and from reflecting on my first encounter with her.
She was in a Huntington hardware store and I couldn't help but notice her standing there, singing out loud to a Johnny Mathis tune playing overhead. The store's proprietor motioned me over to the counter. "Do you know who that is? That's Billy Joel's mom!"
After that day, I spotted Mrs. Joel all around Huntington. In hindsight, I regret not walking over to her on one of those occasions, such as her strolls around the lake at Heckscher Park and breaking out in song, as if I were taking part in a real-life musical. I'm sure she would have joined in.
Although I've never met Billy in person, I was in attendance on July 17, 1991, when a ceremony was held in Cold Spring Harbor to name a park in his honor. I was 32 years old and impressed by the beautifully engraved, wooden plaque that casually hung between two simple wooden posts. The sign prompted him to predict the sign would be gone by the end of the day!
Early that evening, I drove past the park on my way to Jones Beach to see Don Henley perform. Billy Joel came out for the encore and played "Desperado" on the piano. Perhaps he should have been back in Cold Spring Harbor because, on my return trip home, the engraved wooden sign was gone, just as Billy had predicted.
To avoid another sign-stealing incident, a huge rock with a thick, metal plaque replaced the carved wooden sign.
On a happy note, Billy's popularity, much like the space where the plaque is, continues to be "solid as a rock."
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