Thursday, December 3, 2009

♪ Billy Joel and Elton John ♪

(This is an assignment of EWII.) 
I am a lifelong fan of Billy Joel, an American singer-songwriter and composer of classical music. His English counterpart is, of course, Elton John! I have enjoyed his music, too. If Billy’s signature song is "Piano Man," Elton’s would be "Your Song." What do you think? They have some similarities and differences.

Elton is two years older than Billy. They were two of the most successful pop and rock musicians throughout 70’s and 80’s. After that, they continued their music activities and had a few sporadic hits. You’ll frequently hear their music as BGM and commercial songs. Currently Billy’s "Uptown Girl" is used in the Kirin beer advertisement. In Face-to-Face concert, they have made tours together around the world.

They are both pianists. They started playing piano at the age of four. Probably due to classical music training, they are especially blessed with melodic skills. Billy’s trademark is rapid-fire piano playing exemplified in "Angry Young Man," "Running on Ice," and so on. I feel Elton’s touch of piano is, in general, lighter and sounds bouncing.

Billy wrote both lyrics and tunes, while Elton wrote only the tunes: his lyricist is Bernie Taupin and they have been working together since 1967 as a hit-making duo. Billy is a good storyteller, and Elton makes a perfect melody for Taupin’s poetically beautiful lyrics.
Each performer has his own style of performance, and both are powerful. Billy is famous for his movement and Elton for his flamboyance. Elton has more charisma, I think.

Both of them have worked hard for charity. Billy has worked hard on preservation of what is left of the old Long Island where he is from. His anger over the random development of the place is shown in "No Man’s Land," and "The Downeaster Alexa" is dedicated to the commercial fishermen of Long Island. Elton is noted for Elton John Aids Foundation.

They both had hard times, especially Elton battled various addictions and public scandals mainly because of his homosexuality. He persevered as expressed in his song "I’m still Standing." Billy suffered legal and financial problems in his early years and has paid the price of celebrity in heated gossip.

I’ve learned English from their music. I think it’s one of the most enjoyable ways to learn a language. I’ve picked up many useful English expressions from their songs, some of which have a really nice ring. I’m glad that Billy Joel and Elton John are good rivals, friends, and fans of each other’s music.


  1. Good rivals could "raise you up more than you can be". I often hear Billy's "the way you are" arranged in various way. I like "The Downeaster Alexa" too. I like 和太鼓 performance and that powerful sound of drums reminds me of 和太鼓.

  2. " Can You Feel The Love Tonight" or "Don't Let The Sun Go Doun On Me"comfort me.While I like Billy's "New York State Of Mind"with a bit jazzed-up.They are brilliant musician.A part of their melody sometimes touch a chord in the heart of me.They are kind of sweet or rhythmic or something.

  3. Thanks to you, Billy Joel and Elton John are being familiar to me.Elton John's fluid voice often sounds in our living room. Either my husband or I always turn on the disc and the tone really get me.

  4. I sometimes listen their music with YouTube, and try to hear the lyrics but not all their words can listen for me, need to listen one many times!
    I am also amazed their rhythmical playing piano.

  5. You forgot to mention that these two pianists have appeared in concert together recently several times, including at least one time in Japan. You can find videos of them together on YouTube, like this concert in Japan.

  6. Hi, Marc, yes, I should've included it. Thanks for adding the link. It was in 1998. So, I also forgot to mention that Billy and Elton are very funny guys. In 2006, Billy (alone) rocked Kyosera Dome in Osaka. I was one of the excited audiences there. I felt like I was seeing an old friend. Billy turned 60 this year. I hope Face to Face concert will soon realize again in Japan.

  7. Hi, Friends! I'm glad you too enjoy their music and have your favorites of their's. As a self-appointed promoter of Billy and Elton, I'm satisfied!

  8. You wrote, "I’ve learned English from their music".
    Could you perhaps tell us how you did that, in detail?

  9. I got to know Billy Joel and his music when I just started childrearing. To recall those days, I can say I learned English only from his music. I bought an album each time he released a new one and I let the player on while I was doing something else. Of course it's impossible to understand every single word, so I tried to figure out what it was about in general or to pick up some words or expressions. Some lines were eay to hear, and others were not. Since my ears were not used to English sounds, I sometimes laughed at myself to read the lyrics; "おったんガール" turned out "uptown girl", and "だよ~ん" "die young."

    At first I concentrated on Billy Joel's, and gradually I've come to enjoy Elton John, Simon & Garfunkel, Eric Clapton, Carpenters, Stevie Wonder, ABBA, Janis Ian, and lately Celtic Woman, and so on. As you can see, their music don't contain street slung, so you can learn nice English expression in good style.

    This is what I still do, so I write in present tense. When I have time, I listen to music while rading lyrics. Once your ears catch the sound, you can hear it next time. Gradually I've come to be able to sing along with the music in some parts. It is an enjoyable listening comprehension training.

    I've build up my vocabulary (words, phrasal verbs, and idioms) from the lyrics. After reading lyrics, I've picked up some expressions to borrow, especially when I think I share their ideas and thoughts. Borrowing and incorporating the expression into what you want to express produce more natural English than translating your Japanes into English from words to words.

    I think English is a very beautiful language, and if educated or well trained, people can express themselves in many unique ways in English. I've learned it from the lyrics of my favorite music for more than half of my life.

  10. I forgot to write that I had a notebook to write down words and phrases from the lyrics which I thought useful. I make a note of new expression still now.


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