Saturday, February 21, 2009

Billy Joel - "Just the Way You Are" - Best Love Song Ever?



Listening the the 30th anniversary reissue of The Strangerthis week, "Just the Way You Are" jumped out, sounding just as great now as it did thirty years ago; totally knocking me over with it's timeless beauty and the down to earth sentiment that is the core of the song. The Legacy division of Sony/BMG does a fabulous job respecting the legacy that lives within their vaults, and their reissues are of the highest quality; (the 30th anniversary Born to Run is another great one). This package includes not only the original album but two previously unreleased concerts, a CD recorded live at Carnegie Hall on June 3, 1977 and a DVD that includes an early 1978 concert filmed for BBC television plus two live promo videos. As good as "Just the Way You Are" sounds on the original album, check out this live version from the Carnegie Hall concert, the song was brand new, not even recorded yet for the album and he sings it with a freshness and feeling that he might not have felt the next 100,000 times he sang it.

Listen to "Just the Way You Are" live at Carnegie Hall, June 3,1977


The personnel on the Carnegie Hall concert are:
Billy Joel - Vocals & piano.
Richie Cannata - Sax & keys.
Doug Stegmeyer - Bass.
Liberty DeVitto - Drums.
Howie Emerson - Guitars.
The Joe Malin Orchestra under the direction of Frank Owens.

The 30th anniversary edition box set also includes a reproduction of Billy's hand written lyric sheets, a poster, and a glossy booklet with lots of great photos and discussion of the album, the recording, and Billy's career. The two coolest things about The Strangerthat I didn't previously know are that Hiram Bullock played guitar on it, and that "Just the Way You Are" almost didn't make the record. The box set booklet explains:

Joel almost didn't put the song on the album, "even after we changed the drum part," he says. "We'd listen to it and go, 'Oh, that's a chick song.'" It was, in the right ways. When Phoebe Snow and Linda Ronstadt stopped by A&R (A&R Studios on 52nd Street in NYC, where The Stranger was recorded) one day and heard the track, Joel says, "they said, 'We love it! You have to put it on the album!' I was like, 'Yeah? Really?' I was too close to it."

"Just the Way You Are" went on to win Grammy awards for Song of the Year and Record of the Year, 1978. The Stranger,released in September 1977, hit number two on Billboard's album chart and remained on the chart for two years and has sold over ten million copies.


Original single picture sleeve, courtesy Billy Joel's website.

Don't go changing, to try and please me,
You never let me down before,
Don't imagine, you're too familiar,
And I don't see you anymore.

I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
We never could have come this far,
I took the good times, I'll take the bad times,
I'll take you just the way you are.

Don't go trying, some new fashion,
Don't change the colour of your hair,
You always have my, unspoken passion,
Although I might not seem to care.

I don't want clever, conversation,
I never want to work that hard,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew,
What will it take till you believe in me,
The way that I believe in you?

I said I love you, and that's forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn't love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.

I don't want clever, conversation,
I never want to work that hard,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.

Best Love Song Ever? With all that in mind, I want to compile by decidedly un-scientific survey, a list of the greatest love songs ever. I want input from everyone with an opinion, please post a comment here or by email and list the three best love songs you can think of, and if one stands out in your view as the greatest love song ever, please say so. Just one ground rule - only one song per artist. I could, without breaking a sweat, list ten great love songs by Stevie Wonder or the Beatles but that would be too easy, so if a particular artist has multiple great love songs, just pick your favorite by that artist. That's it - I'll post the results and stream the top songs later on this spring.


The Stranger: 30th Anniversary [Limited Edition] (Deluxe Boxed Set - 2 CDs + 1 DVD)

Billy Joel's website.
Legacy Recordings' website.

3 comments:

Sara said...

Very nice article and I like that song, but the melody is a little, I dunno, generic -- could be I've just heard it too many times. If I had to chose a Billy Joel love song, I'd go with Traveling Prayer, but then I'm a sucker for a banjo.

Here's my list in no order:

Today, Jefferson Airplane
Time in a Bottle, Jim Croce
Annie's Song, (I can't believe I'm going to mention) John Denver
Womankind, The Incredible String Band
Since You've Asked, Judy Collins
I Give You the Morning, Tom Paxton
My Old Man, Joni Mitchell
Something in the Way She Moves, James Taylor
I Will, The Beatles
Bernadette, the Four Tops
Song to You, Leon Russell
Fall at Your Feet, Crowded House

and the Grammy goes to "I was born in Little Rock, had a childhood sweetheart..."

Charlie said...

WOW! Tough question!

Billy's song is a great one but I may have heard it too often. I'm saying that & I'm a huge Joel fan.

Here are a few in no particular order.

Let me think on this and I'll get back to you.

Charlie said...

Here, in no particular order and with some duplication with your list, are some of my favorites. I'll try and come up with some more when I can.

Dedicated To The One I Love – The Mamas and the Papas
I Will - The Beatles
Song For You – The Carpenters
I Believe When I Fall In Love With You It Will Be Forever – Stevie Wonder
I Just Want To See You Again – Lucinda Williams
Your Song - Elton John
I Hear A Symphony – The Supremes
I Only Want To Be With You – Shelby Lynne
God Only Knows – The Beach Boys
Have I Told You Lately That I Love You – Van Morrison or Rod Stewart
Color My World – Chicago (I actually prefer “Beginnings” but this was the first dance at our wedding)
The Story – Brandi Carlile
Let’s Hope No One Finds Us- Lewis Taylor