The 50-year career of Billy Joel has been recognized by The Library of Congress, which named him the 2014 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song.
“When we first began to establish the Library’s Gershwin Prize, it was with the vision that this award be bestowed upon artists who have created a lifetime of remarkable works that can be recognized and added to America’s national cultural patrimony,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. “Billy Joel is a true example of this vision for the Library’s Gershwin Prize.”
“The Gershwin Prize recognizes and celebrates the link between classic American song and contemporary music,” said celebrated entertainer Michael Feinstein who also served as master of ceremonies at a luncheon featuring our nation's lawmakers, and who presented a tribute to the legacy of George and Ira Gershwin at a concert last night. “Art is a continuum, and the choice of Billy Joel as this year’s recipient is an eloquent demonstration of how new music is born from the inspiration of what came before.”
The tribute concert featured performances by Tony Bennett, Boyz II Men, Gavin DeGraw, Josh Groban, John Mellencamp, and LeAnn Rimes, and included an opening number from Twyla Tharp's Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, "Movin' Out." Joel also performed.
“We are thrilled to be a part of this year’s Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song tribute concert, honoring Billy Joel,” said the members of Boyz II Men. “He is truly one of the most talented musicians of our time, and we look forward to celebrating his contributions to popular music.”
You can watch the concert on PBS on Friday, January 2, at 9pm.
The Gershwin Prize honors a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations. Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, and Carole King.
With a career spanning 50 years in the entertainment industry, Joel is the sixth top-selling artist of all time and the third top-selling solo artist of all time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
His multiple GRAMMY™ wins include Song of the Year (“Just the Way You Are,” 1978), Record of the Year (“Just the Way You Are,” 1978), Album of the Year (“52nd Street,” 1979), and back-to-back wins for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male for two of his 13 multi-platinum albums, “52nd Street” and “Glass Houses” in 1979 and 1980, respectively. Among other best-known songs are “She’s Always a Woman,” “Only the Good Die Young,” “My Life,” “Honesty,” “She’s Got a Way,” “Tell Her About It,” “An Innocent Man,” “You’re Only Human (Second Wind),” “A Matter of Trust,” “Captain Jack” and “The River of Dreams.”
Photo: Brian Jones/AP