Memory Lane

Billy Joel Wrote A Song About My Sister?

I was in high school, and it immediately became one of my favorite albums (and apparently other people's as well). And, although it faced some stiff competition from the artist's earlier "Piano Man" album, "The Stranger" features a song that has always been very special to me. Because it's a song about my sister. Well, at least to me, it is …

Back in 1977, when the album was released, I was a teenager and Black was one of the few women at NYU's business school (and would ultimately not only survive but thrive in the male-dominated oil and gas industry). She's always been very intelligent and very independent, never thinking twice about speaking her mind, although at times I thought it curious when she wouldn't have anything to say. (I was too young to realize it was a "strategic" decision as she knew some things are best left unsaid.)

So, imagine my reaction when Billy Joel's song "She's Always A Woman" came out, and I heard him singing about a woman who, as described by almost every single lyric, could be my sister. Of course, I knew the song wasn't really about her, and even though I could simply enjoy the song as yet another great Billy Joel song, I quietly smiled to myself at its "hidden meaning" for me.

And that memory lay dormant … until I was recently driving home from Austin and was listening to The Billy Joel Channel on Sirius. After all, could there be any better music to enjoy while on a road trip? (Well, since it's just under a three-hour drive, I guess it's not really a road trip, but you know what I mean.) Anyway, one of the things I love about this channel is how Joel describes the "backstory" to featured songs.

So, there I was, cruising down a particularly scenic stretch of Highway 71 outside of Bastrop, Texas, when I first heard Joel talk about how "She's Always A Woman" was about his wife at the time. A woman who was, as the song states, "ahead of her time," as she was a tough and savvy music executive back when women executives were a rarity. And while she displayed all the seemingly negative characteristics that the song talks about, he expressed, with some annoyance, how people would focus on those things, ignoring the song's title and how, to him, "She was always a woman to me." Punching out each word in the title of the song as if to say, "I think you missed the point of the song."

But it was his very last comment that made me laugh as it probably most reminded me of my sister, as I could imagine her saying it,

That's how it is in business … stop kvetching.
Photo by Red

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