Hello and welcome to the first of two music-themed entries this month at the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog! We’ll be changing our tune (pardon the pun) now that the election season is over, having brought our series of politics-related posts to a close. As always, feel free to let me know what you think over at the Contact page and to share the blog with those who might find this project interesting.
Today’s topic was suggested by a friend and reader of the blog a few months back: famed singer, songwriter, and pianist Billy Joel (1949-). Best known for songs such as “Piano Man,” “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” and “Only the Good Die Young,” Joel is one of the best-selling recording artists in United States history; his work has garnered six Grammys and another seventeen nominations to boot. He has also dabbled in voiceover work, as well as in various boat- and motorcycle-related businesses, in addition to his successful musical career.
Joel occasionally appears on lists of supposed Church of Christ celebrities, but is there anything to the rumor?
This entry will be a bit on the short side, as there is only one source of direct relevance to our question. In the summer of 2001, Joel participated in a reader Q&A feature for Blender; the inquiries covered everything from music to real estate to religion. In response to a reader who asked, “Once and for all, are you Jewish?” Joel gave the following reply:
Good question. My parents were both from Jewish families. I was not brought up Jewish in any religious way. [Smiles] My circumcision was as Jewish as they got. I used to go to Roman Catholic church with my friends, and when I was 11, I got baptized in a Church of Christ in Hicksville [New York]. I’m a cultural Jew. I like the Lower East Side humor, the food. I think the Yiddish language is terrifically expressive. Does that make me a complete Jew or a partial Jew? I’m not really sure. (1)
While more recent public statements from Joel indicate that he no longer holds any sort of religious affiliation, the above quotation does reveal that at least at one point in his youth, he was closely connected with (indeed, baptized into) Churches of Christ.
Thanks for reading this short (but hopefully sweet) entry today, and check back in a couple of weeks for our final post of 2018!
(1) Rob Tannenbaum, “Dear Superstar: Billy Joel,” Blender, July 15, 2001, accessed September 14, 2018, https://web.archive.org/web/20090822225600/http://www.blender.com/guide/66688/dear-superstar-billy-joel.html.