A Sneak Peek at Billy Joel Tell-All: A Suicide Attempt, Love Lost & Liquor
A new book, 'Billy Joel: The Definitive Biography,' hits stores on Tuesday, and it’s offering inside information about the 65-year-old musician’s life.
Joel signed with a publisher six years ago to tell his life story with help from a ghost writer, but after 100 hours of interviews he pulled out from worries about how personal the book might become.
The book describes how Joel's parents, who are German Jews, barely survived the Holocaust, as well as how Billy gave Whitney Houston the brush-off and missed out on the opportunity to discover her.
It also reveals that Billy Joel tried to commit suicide in his 20s because of his failing career, by swallowing fistfuls of an anxiety medication, and washing it down with furniture polish. When he awoke, he thought, “Oh great, I couldn’t even do this right.”
Other stories include how Joel really felt about his first wife (Elizabeth Weber), how he dated models Christie Brinkley and Elle McPherson at the same time, and describe his three tortured marriages — and the music they’ve inspired.
- “She’s Got a Way” and “She’s Always a Woman” were inspired by his first wife. He wrote “Just the Way You Are” as her birthday gift, and after he played it for her, she said, “Do I get the publishing, too?”
- As for marriage # 2: “Christie [Brinkley] likes to joke that the end of the marriage . . . spelled the end of my songwriting career. At least, I think it’s a joke.”
- Marriage # 3 was to Katie Lee, a college girl from Ohio whom he had picked up in the lobby of the Peninsula Hotel. In 2008, while touring with Elton John, Joel kept seeing photos of Lee at premieres and gallery openings — and one in particular, of her dancing closely with another man at Art Basel in Miami.
As the marriage unraveled, Joel held out hope. He told Lee he wanted to go to a therapist. She began talking about furniture. “I realized, ‘It’s not going to happen. We’re over . . . Just don’t send me messages, don’t leave me cute little phone calls, don’t tease me, don’t f- -k with me, just end it. ’Cause I’m an old man now, a vulnerable man. Don’t do that to an old guy.’ ”
By 2002, Joel was again deeply depressed and drinking heavily. He was touring with Elton John, and one night had an onstage meltdown at the Garden, randomly shouting out famous battle sites: “Bunker Hill! Antietam!” (In 2011, John publicly castigated Joel on his drinking. Their relationship has never really recovered.)
Between 2002 and 2004, Joel had three car accidents on Long Island, once smashing into a house. He later blamed bad street lighting, local wildlife, his poorly constructed Citroën and 9/11. He checked into rehab but never bought into it. “The fact is, I like to drink,” Joel told Schruers. “Sometimes too much.”