Four decades later, Billy Joel still isn't sick of playing 'Piano Man'

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You might think that after 42 years Billy Joel would tire of singing about Paul who's a real estate novelist and Davy who's still in the Navy. But the iconic tune "Piano Man" never gets old for him. Originally released in 1973, it is one of the Grammy award-winning singer's most popular hits. Singing the same song at every gig doesn't annoy him — it's a part of his life's work.

"It's not a job you get bored in: we'll play similar material at various gigs but it's always so different," he said in a conversation with New Yorker staff writer Nick Paumgarten Sunday night. "There's always a different dynamic, a different ambiance in the room, the audience is different, you're different that night."

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Four decades later, Billy Joel still isn't sick of playing 'Piano Man'
Billy Joel performs the first show of his Madison Square Garden residency, on Monday, January 27, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Billy Joel performs at the BB&T Center on January 11, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Daly/Invision/AP)
SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 11: Billy Joel performs at BB&T Center on January 11, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Vallery Jean/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 31: Billy Joel performs onstage during his New Year's Eve Concert at the Barclays Center of Brooklyn on December 31, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
ILLINOIS, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 16: Singer/songwriter Billy Joel greeting old friend Pat Schwarzentraub & girl named Julie from Peoria, IL backstage at the Rosemont Horizon Theater. (Photo by John Zich/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)
Billy Joel performs on stage, Philadelphia, 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Billy Joel sits in the auditorium seating during a soundcheck, playing accordion, Philadelphia, 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Billy Joel, portrait, at home in front of gold discs, New York, January 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Billy Joel performs on stage, USA, 1977. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
American singer-songwriter Billy Joel in concert in Wembley Arena, June 1984. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Billy Joel 1980 (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
Billy Joel 1980 (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
Billy Joel, portrait, USA, 1987. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)
Billy Joel 1980 (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)
Pianist, singer and songwriter Billy Joel. (Photo by Terry O'Neill/Getty Images)
Joel, Billy - 14 - A Matter Of Trust - NL - 1986
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Billy JOEL (Photo by Richard E. Aaron/Redferns)
NEW YORK - 1970: Singer Billy Joel and drummer Jon Small of the rock band 'Attila' pose for a portrait in 1970. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) Photo of Billy JOEL; Screaming in to a microphone (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)
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Unsurprisingly, the song was born in a piano bar. Years ago Joel took a job playing in L.A.'s Executive Room. He would say to himself, "I don't believe I'm doing this, but maybe I'll get a song out of it."

Lo and behold, he did, and he's played it too many times to count.

"If you would have told me at that time that a song that was almost six minutes long in three quarter time about bummed out losers in this alky bar in Los Angeles would be a hit, I would say, yeah sure," he said.

He doesn't feel as much fondness for all of his songs. He now finds "Captain Jack" dreary, and about some older lyrics he'll wonder, "What was I thinking?"

Clearly audiences disagree. Joel's sold out 24 consecutive shows at Madison Square Garden, though he hasn't released new music in two decades, and says he never set out to make chart-toppers. "I don't know what is going to be a hit," he explains. "When I write, it's what I do and it's what I want to hear."

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