Writer: Billy Joel
Producer: Phil Ramone
Recorded: Spring-summer 1977 at A&R Recording in New York City
Released: Fall 1977
|Players:||Billy Joel — vocals, keyboards
Doug Stegmeyer — bass
Hiram Bullock — guitar
Liberty DeVitto — drums
Richie Canatta — woodwinds
Steve Zahn — guitar
Patrick Williams — orchestrations
|Album:||The Stranger (Columbia)|
A native of Long Island, New York, Billy Joel tried his hand at boxing before settling on a career in music. He told Billboard, “I became a musician partly because of my physical limitations. I wasn’t tall. I don’t have Cary Grant looks. I had to transcend somehow, so when I’m in the studio and I’m free to move, I’m six-foot-six and I look like Cary Grant.”
Joel had been recording for six years before The Stranger album broke through to a mass audience, starting with the hit ballad “Just The Way You Are.”
“Only The Good Die Young” is a plea for sexual favors from a “good” Catholic girl. The song didn’t amuse some Catholics, and priests spoke out against the song.
Of the controversy surrounding the song, Joel has denied that “Only The Good Die Young” is anti-Catholic. He also says he isn’t religious — “I still feel very much like an atheist in the religious aspect of things. But there are spiritual planes that I’m aware of that I don’t know anything about, that I can’t explain.”
“Only The Good Die Young” peaked at Number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains one of Joel’s most popular radio songs.
The Stranger peaked at Number Two on the Billboard 200. It was also Joel’s first million-seller, and has sold more than ten million copies.