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New York Awards 2002

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Billy Joel, Lifetime Achievement

Billy Joel has always been a punk rocker. A ridiculous claim for the most successful American songwriter since Irving Berlin, but since his 1971 debut, the bard of Bay Shore has written more than the romantic ballads to future ex-wives, notably the Valentine’s Day standard "Just the Way You Are,” that put him on the radio. His fist-shaking albums were full of urban apocalypse and a mistrust of love, family, the media, nostalgia, and religion—all later embraced by the Sex Pistols and the Clash. William Martin Joel, 53—Yankees fan, Hamptons fixture, indignant multimillionaire—could not have come from anywhere but here. He talks with a Long Island bray that makes artsy-fartsy rhyme with hotsy-totsy. Since he merges Beatles with Broadway, Twyla Tharp’s idea to stage a baby-boomer musical from his songs makes perfect sense. Typically, Joel’s first response was a suspicious Get lost. Now he loves Movin’ Out so much he sometimes joins the cast onstage. Shameless, sentimental, combative, and durable, Billy Joel is a punk the way that every New Yorker is a punk. -- ROB TANNENBAUM


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