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April 2nd 2011 in Music


The following is from the Hollywood Reporter:

Why did Billy Joel cancel his memoir a little more than two months before it was slated to hit shelves?

One music industry source tells The New York Post his failure to confront his past — including his battle with alcohol and a high-profile divorce from Christie Brinkley — likely played a role. “He never fully confronted the 800-lb. gorilla in the room,” the source says. “There needs to be a lot of dish in rock memoirs.”

In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Elton John also said Joel has never fully confronted his problem and was still wrestling with his demons, calling Joel’s stints in treatment as “rehab light.”

The bio (titled The Book of Joel), which was due in June, was being ghost written by Fred Schruers, a celeb profiler who once worked at Rolling Stone.

Schruers would not comment on Joel’s decision to back out.

Joel has agreed to return a portion of the $3 million advance he received from Harper Colllins.

The Joel book was signed by Harper Collins Executive Editor David Hirshey and represented by Amanda Urban at ICM.

Neither have commented.

It’s not the first time Joel has nixed a book project: The Post reports that he scrapped a book on classical music for the Riverhead imprint of Penguin several years ago.

The last sentence is only half true.

This is from my book, Billy Joel: Life and Times of An Angry Young Man. As luck would have it, the new Second Edition of the book comes out this week! This is from the Afterword:

Up until now, there has been no really in-depth biography of Billy Joel. I now understand why. Billy is intensely private and has become even more so as time has gone on. If anything, this has fueled the public’s fascination with him as a person and a performer. How many other performers who haven’t recorded a new song in over a decade could sell out arenas—at $300 a ticket—on a regular basis?

This is not to say that the idea has never been considered, even by Billy himself. Peter Skolnick, now an attorney in New Jersey (he represents David “The Sopranos” Chase, among others), was a literary agent in the early ’80s. “Billy was, at that point, still with Frank Weber,” he recalls. “I was approached by Jeff Schock, who had recently joined Frank to take care of promotion and marketing. Jeff and I talked about an authorized biography. I went out to Frank’s office to meet with Billy. I must have gotten there early, because I’m standing outside there, having a cigarette, when Billy comes roaring up on a motorcycle. He doesn’t know who I am. He goes into the office. Then I came in.

“What I found fascinating and wonderful about the very short meeting we had is he said to me, ‘Why would anybody want to read a book about me?’ I was amazed. Everyone was fascinated by him. He told me, ‘I will do this book if you can find a writer who is so good that he could write a book that is so good, that if the reader had never heard of Billy Joel, he would still say, “Boy, what a terrific book.”’ That was a very tall order. I actually think that I found such a writer, but at the point when I started putting that all together, Billy famously had his falling out with Frank. That book never happened.

“Billy was genuinely humble. His question about why would anybody really care, I think it was a sincere question, and his whole notion that he wanted a book so good that even if you’d never heard of him, you’d think it was a great book, it was kind of refreshing.”

I don’t pretend to have written that book, though that was my goal. That’s my goal whenever I sit down to write: To make what I know of a subject interesting enough that even someone who doesn’t care about
the subject will enjoy the book. My test market in such matters is my father, who might have heard the names of many of the people I write about but goes out of his way to avoid the music.

This is not to say that I wanted to do a hatchet job on Billy. Despite his protestations, he is a fascinating enough subject without having to resort to that. During the course of writing this, I came to admire him a bit, and discovered that even people he’s vilified in the past—Artie Ripp, in particular—had very little bad to say about him. Billy just tries to live his non-professional life as best he can, out of the public eye, despite being in a profession that is intensely public.

If you were looking forward to reading The Book of Joel consider giving my book a glance.

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