Paying homage to a Long Island music legend, the New York City-based a cappella group Six13 on Monday released the song and video "A Billy Joel Passover."
"It's 9 o'clock on a Seder day / The annual crowd's shuffled in," begins the 4¼-minute medley of melodies from Joel's "Piano Man," "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)," "We Didn't Start the Fire" and "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant," with several of the rotating group of eight singers seated around a table for Passover. "There's a zayde sitting next to me," it continues, "Making kiddush for all of his kin,” using, respectively, the Yiddish word for grandfather and the Hebrew word for a prayer offered over wine.
The clever and often hilarious lyrics include highlights featuring the prophet Moses ("Moshe Rabbeinu came and burst through the door / He said, 'Hey, let us out of this country' "), familiar kosher brands and an optimistic phrase in "We Didn't Start the Fire" staccato ("Gefen, Lieber's and Kedem / Next year in Jerusalem") and a melancholy return to the Seder table ("Four cups of red / Four cups of white / Tonight is different from all other nights").
"I and a few other guys in the group are huge Billy Joel devotees," explains singer and musical arranger Mike Boxer, 40, who writes most of the original songs for the nearly 20-year-old group devoted to Jewish religion and culture. "I grew up literally learning how to play piano on Billy Joel's stuff. He's my musical hero, as he is for a lot of people."
The homage was "something I've wanted to do for quite a while," he says. The group each year tries to parody a trending relevant song for the major holidays: "Bohemian Chanukah," released around the time of the Freddie Mercury biopic, has garnered 2.9 million views so far on YouTube, and the group recently did "West Side Chanukah Story."
The Billy Joel pastiche originally was set to be done just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning, and the group — whose name refers to the 613 mitzvot (commandments) — "thought this is probably not the right time to release a lighthearted parody video,” Boxer says.
Filmed, directed, edited and produced by David Khabinsky, the video includes outdoor locations such as Madison Square Garden, where Joel has a long-standing monthly residency, and the steps of 142 Mercer St. in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, where Joel sits on the cover of his 1983 album "An Innocent Man.” The groups exits the East Village's Astor Place subway station, inside which the cover of Joel's 1976 "Turnstiles" album was shot.
Interiors include the SAR Academy High School in Riverdale, the Bronx, where one of the group members — who include the Great Neck-raised Chaim Moskowitz and Craig Resmovits as well as Dix Hill's Jacob Spadaro, who does not appear in the video — teaches.
While Six13 has performed at events including New York's Salute to Israel Parade on Fifth Avenue and, in December 2016, at the White House for President Barack Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Boxer says meeting Joel remains "a dream of a lot of us. Sometimes Billy has a cappella groups join him onstage for 'The Longest Time.' We would find ourselves in Heaven if we could do that."