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10. Conjunto Impacto – Rosalinda’s Eyes

Largely ignored in the Billy Joel canon, “Rosalinda’s Eyes,” coming out in 1978 on Joel’s sixth album 52nd Street, was never released as a proper single and rarely performed in concert. Cover versions of the song have been about as rare as post-1993 new Billy Joel music. Except, of course, the Miami-based band Conjunto Impacto, specializing in salsa and authentic Cuban-style music, covered the song in the ’80s. Given the musical heft of the band (14 members, including two trombones and three trumpet players), this version is superior in musicianship and authenticity than the rather tepid-by-comparison original. Switching from English to Spanish mid-song is a perfect segue for a fitting tribute to Billy Joel’s mother, Rosalind, with Joel saying that this is the song that his father Howard should have written. – Walt Falconer

9. Born From Ashes – Pressure

Screamo Billy Joel? Yes, and it works too. The UK’s Born From Ashes keeps the throat-shredding in reserve for when it counts, one guy singing the song more or less straight over a heavy metal backing while another singer goes absolutely apeshit in the background. “Pressure” is maybe the only Billy Joel song where this approach could work, and they nail it. – Ray Padgett

8. Love Canon – Prelude (Angry Young Man)

Above all else, Billy Joel is a Piano Man, one of the best-known piano players in the world. One of Joel’s most impassioned demonstrations of keyboard dexterity is the “Prelude” to the song “Angry Young Man,” from the 1976 album Turnstiles. Over the first of the 1:50 of the song, before he kicks in with the vocals, Joel executes the piano player’s version of short-track Olympic speed skating, executing runs up and down the keyboard laying down staccato rhythms, jazz riffs, and ragtime runs with equal aplomb. Playing it forward, the bluegrass roots band Love Canon handles “Prelude/Angry Young Man” with the same masterful dexterity as the original, this time with banjo, guitar, upright bass, and mandolin. – Walt Falconer

7. The Manhattans – Everybody Has a Dream

If you have a dream – and based on the title of this song, you clearly do – then this R&B cover might just be the perfect uplifting soundtrack to accompany it. Every time the chorus comes back around, a song that already sounds like a winner hits a higher gear. The floating background vocals and electric guitar stabs hold the song together while the lead vocal lets loose, getting better and better, more and more uplifting. The 7-minute album version feels much shorter, with each minute better than the one before. – Mike Misch

6. nous. – She’s Always a Woman

This cover is almost completely transformed from the Joel starting point, a love song turned anthem. nous. starts out with a breezy ambiance; the sound reminds the listener of a carefree ukulele cover with childlike whispered “she’s always a woman” reminders in the background. Then the beat drops and the youthful sound grows up, and more soul is unleashed. – Sara Stoudt

5. Zhané – For The Longest Time

Billy Joel’s intersections with R&B seemingly start and end with 1983’s An Innocent Man. The concept album, which explores the proto-R&B musical influences of Joel’s youth, is charming but laden with nostalgia. A wash of stylized soul and doo-wop tributes, trapped in amber. So it’s a welcome rush toward a more modern realm (or, at least, “modern” in the year 1997) to hear R&B duo Zhané’s version of “For the Longest Time.” The pair, who were active in the mid-‘90s and are perhaps known best for their pump-up anthem “Hey Mr. DJ,” simultaneously slow things down and heat things up with their cover, dialing back the tempo to a proper slow-jam and shifting the entire tune down to a sultry minor key. Zhané completely untether “For the Longest Time” from its novel doo-wop arrangement too, enveloping the melodies with silky keyboard textures and a sleek backbeat. While their cover feels, by now, fixed in the musical past as well, it’s still refreshing to hear “For the Longest Time” adapted into something so nuanced and scintillating — much more than a happy-go-lucky genre exercise. – Ben Easton

4. Bayside – Movin’ Out

If, like me, you grew up or lived on Long Island at any point over the last 50 years, there’s a little Billy Joel in your blood. He is inextricably, eternally embedded in the LI cultural fabric. He is an unavoidable rite of passage. Yes, you could try to resist him like I did, but I’m telling you the effort would be in vain. If you are a Long Island citizen, you will invariably succumb at some unexpected juncture and morph into at least an auxiliary member in the Cult of Joel. Hopefully that will help explain why it brings me such joy to see the Joel thing being handed down to future generations of islanders. Case in point: pop-punk alt-rockers Bayside (as in Queens), who chose to cover “Movin’ Out” on their 2012 Covers-Volume #1 EP. According to singer Anthony Raneri, “We’ve talked about how fun this would be to cover for years. There is definitely footage of me at 3 years old singing Billy Joel songs into a banana.” Yes, this extremely fun and crunchy cover is built on a foundation of sweet hometown love (and maybe bananas). Gotta give huge points for the outrageously ostentatious classic rock stylings that aggressively punctuate the song, specifically the combination Boston/Van Halen style guitar flourishes and the vocal coda, which is basically an aural love note to Kansas’s “Carry On Wayward Son.” This cover is an unashamed Russian doll of absolute Long Island-ness, and as such, it just kinda rules. – Hope Silverman

3. Laptop – It’s Still Rock’n’Roll To Me

This version is a little out there, starting with a drum machine and then going full electronic with a sci-fi synth. The lyrics are recited in monotone at a slower pace than the original, and “it’s still rock ’n roll to me” is spoken as if via electrolarynx. Despite the slower pace, the myriad of sounds happening in the background maintain the original’s forward-moving energy. – Sara Stoudt

2. The Three Degrees – Stop in Nevada

“Stop In Nevada,” a twanging orchestral deep cut from 1973’s Piano Man, has been shyly winding its way back into his show setlists over the past few years. It’s one of the most Elton John-esque confections in the whole Joel catalog, and it shares that same sweet storytelling vibe so prominent on John’s Madman Across the Water, which had been released the previous year. The Three Degrees are best known for their 1974 evergreen Philly soul classic “When Will I See You Again” (written and produced by the legendary team of Gamble and Huff). The trio’s cover of “Stop in Nevada” was part of A Toast Of Love, a 1976 album only released in Japan. As of this writing, neither the song nor the album are available on the streaming services, making it one of those obscure, collectible cult classics that without YouTube would sadly be lost in the ether. This cover sees the song getting rigorously shaken and stirred. The group alter the lyrical point of view from third person perspective to first (“I’m heading out to California!”), forsake the desert highway twang, hitch the trailer to a seriously punchy horn section, and masterfully reshape “Stop In Nevada” into a top-down anthem of empowerment that ain’t looking back. – Hope Silverman

1. Dolly Parton – Travelin’ Prayer

Country legend Dolly Parton took an independent turn in the late ‘90s when she released a bluegrass album on the indie label Sugar Hill Records called The Grass is Blue. She was backed by some of the best players in the business, such as multi-instrumentalist Jerry Douglas and mandolin virtuoso Sam Bush. The album won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. She opened the collection with a high-energy cover of Billy Joel’s “Travelin’ Prayer.” Parton belts out the lyrics with a rapid-fire delivery and injects it with her signature aw-shucks brand of country sweetness. Parton’s cover has a certain timeless quality. Such was Joel’s talent as a songwriter, he could truly craft music for the ages. – Curtis Zimmermann

Check out more installments in our monthly ‘Best Covers Ever’ series, including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell, and Madonna.

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  One Response to “The 40 Best Billy Joel Covers Ever”

Comments (1)
  1. I’ve always liked Copeland’s version of She’s Always A Woman.

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