February 28, 2020

What Billy Joel Taught Me About Marriage

Billy Joel In Concert - New York, New York at Madison Square Garden on April 14, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

When I first met my husband, Daniel, he told me that one of his favorite musicians was Billy Joel. 

“Billy Joel? Ugh. Why?”

“How could anyone not like Billy Joel?” he said.

I explained that, sure, I liked a few of Joel’s tunes, but overall, I thought his music was kind of lame. I listened to edgier stuff like 1970s punk rock and the Pixies. 

That didn’t stop Daniel from trying to get me to like Joel. He blared Joel in the house and in the car, singing along to every lyric. I felt like I heard “Vienna” and “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” and “The Downeaster ‘Alexa’ ” wherever I turned. When one of these songs would begin, I’d let out a loud, “Whyyyyy?” and put on my headphones.  

Once, our friend Genevieve was visiting, and she and Daniel were discussing their love for the “Piano Man.” I chimed in that I didn’t like him.

“What?” Genevieve gasped. “How?”

“I just … don’t.” 

“I think I’ve figured it out,” Daniel said. “You’re not from New York, so you just don’t get it.”

“Or I just have good taste in music.”

Later, Daniel told me he was upset about how I reacted when he listened to Billy Joel. He wanted to be able to enjoy Joel in peace. Joel put him in a good mood.

He explained how Joel’s music reminded him of summers spent fishing on Long Island and the fun times he had as a kid. And Joel inspired him. Like Daniel, he is a Jew from Long Island. They are performers. 

He explained how Joel’s music reminded him of summers spent fishing on Long Island and the fun times he had as a kid. And Joel inspired him. Like Daniel, he is a Jew from Long Island. They are performers. Daniel was proud that a fellow Member of the Tribe from Long Island had hit it so big. It gave him hope and something to aspire to. Joel’s father escaped the Holocaust and moved to Vienna, where Daniel’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, is from, so they had that connection. 

After hearing the back story, I understood. I worshipped Britney Spears when I was a kid; she helped me get through some rough times. Even though she’s not the best musician, I’ll always defend her. 

In 2017, I bought us tickets to see Joel at Dodger Stadium.  

To my surprise, I had an enjoyable time and I gained respect for Joel. He was nearly 70 years old and performing the heck out of his songs. After that, I liked him even more for wearing a yellow star on stage, proudly proclaiming his Judaism. 

And then, a little while later, something strange happened: I began to love Joel’s music. I don’t know if it was organic or the fact that I thought about my husband and how much I loved him whenever I listened to Joel. Probably a combination of both. 

Billy Joel taught me that whatever is important to my husband should be important to me, too. We don’t have to have the same taste in everything, but we do have to respect each other’s interests, even if we don’t understand them. Joel showed me how to be open-minded when it came to things that my husband liked.  

Daniel certainly understood that. He didn’t complain about my loud music that he disliked. He was patient when I wasn’t being so nice, and put up with my naysayer attitude. 

And with his selfless actions, he taught me an important lesson, too. No matter how different we were, he appreciated me. He respected me. He was always going to be here for me. 

He was telling me, above all, “I love you just the way you are.”


Kylie Ora Lobell is a Journal contributing writer.