What's more Long Island than Jones Beach, the Montauk Lighthouse and a bagel? Well, Billy Joel of course. Newsday polled its online readers, asking them to pick from amongst 64 foods, attractions, celebrities and activities the one that epitomizes Long Island, and after more than 520,000 votes were cast, the people crowned the Piano Man their champion. Here are 13 reasons why Joel lives up to the title. For more on how the tournament unfolded, visit newsday.com/tsli.
He's proud to be a Long Islander
Joel wears his hometown pride across his chest, representing Hicksville in this 1978 Washington Post photo. He's said, "My perspective of things all comes from a Long Island point of view." He also expressed his love of Long Island, which he calls his "favorite place," in a new tourism ad campaign for New York State. | Watch the commercial here.
He sings about Long Island
From cruising Manhasset's Miracle Mile in "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me” to "a town known as Oyster Bay, Long Island" in "The Ballad of Billy the Kid," Joel's lyrics often include local influences. And, of course, there's "The Downeaster Alexa," an homage to Long Island's baymen -- and his daughter. | Here Joel talks more about his top Long Island songs.
He grew up in a Levitt house
The Hicksville home that Joel grew up in was one of the many built by Long Island developer William Levitt's firm, Levitt & Sons, after World War II. Joel was age 1 when his family moved into the new subdivision, which stretched across old potato farms.
He loves the ocean
Billy Joel has written about the water on every one of his albums. He says he's always been "intrigued by the idea of living on an island." Before he could afford to own a boat, he said he would venture to the North Shore as a teenager to hit the water on "borrowed" vessels. This is Joel on Dec. 4, 1995, with his boat, Alexa. | Read more about Joel's romance with the sea.
He takes care of Long Island
Joel has used his musical talents to raise money for local charities including Long Island Cares, which address hunger issues in the region. Proceeds from his 2013 sold-out benefit concert at the Paramount in Huntington went to this group. He also played in the 12-12-12 Concert for Sandy Relief, which raised $32 million for superstorm Sandy recovery efforts in New York and New Jersey. | Here's a closer look at Joel's philanthropic efforts.
He named his first album "Cold Spring Harbor"
And in return, the Town of Huntington later named a park in Cold Spring Harbor for him.
He cleans up nicely
Joel, joined by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, pitched in with the 2013 annual Friends of the Bay Cleanup at Theodore Roosevelt Park in Oyster Bay, hauling away garbage from the bay and its beaches. He said, "I love this area . . . It's a valuable state resource and I'm concerned about its health and cleanliness." | Here's the full story.
He still lives on Long Island
Joel owns homes in Centre Island, Sag Harbor, Huntington and this waterfront property in Sagaponack, which he is trying to sell. He re-listed it for a third time in June 2014, asking for $19.95 million. | Here's the full story.
He enjoys hanging in the Hamptons -- but not the glitzy version
Like many celebrities, Joel is drawn to the Hamptons but he's less interested in the A-list parties. He told author Dan Rattiner, "I’m from the working man’s Long Island, Levittown. Massapequa. The working men and women live out east. And I want to be among them.” On Aug. 21, 1995, he speaks to reporters before turning to teach a master class in music at an East Hampton summer camp. While cruising through East Hampton on his motorcycle in 2014, he even stopped to help a damsel in distress. | More on that story here.
He’s a local business owner
Joel’s bike shop -- 20th Century Cycles in Oyster Bay -- opened around Nov. 6, 2010.
He was in a high school band
Joel had a band in high school, The Commandos, and their gigs included playing the 1966 Hicksville High School fall mixer. Here’s the yearbook photo to prove it. What did Joel have to say about the music education he received in Hicksville? | Read about it here.
He could be sitting next to you at your child’s school concert
When staff at Glen Cove's Deasy Elementary School invited Billy Joel to their spring concert, "The River of Dreams: A Billy Joel Tribute," on April 9, 2014, he actually showed up. He slipped into the auditorium, sat down in one of the back rows and watched the youngsters perform. (Unfortunately, he had to exit after 10 minutes because audience members flooded him with requests for photos and autographs.) | Here's the full story.
He helps other LIers get ahead
For his New Year's Eve concert at the Barclays Center and his ongoing Madison Square Garden residency, Billy Joel welcomed a new member to his band, Mike DelGuidice, a Long Island native and lead singer of Big Shot, a Billy Joel tribute band. "In a way, it’s a form of gratitude," Joel told The New York Times of recruiting DelGuidice. "Thank you for doing my stuff and for working really hard — now, come along with us.” | This is what DelGuidice had to say about joining Joel's band.