It’s a busy week for new Billy Joel covers! On Tuesday we posted about Kendall Roy (yes, the character from Succession) getting an official release for “his” “Honesty” cover. And while that one wasn’t strictly speaking, you know, good – that was kind of the point – this new one is. It’s a version of “Vienna” by Melbourne singer Gretta Ray, expanding on her brief TikTok cover that went viral back in February.
Kendall Roy, the most wily of the Roy progeny featured on HBO’s Succession, has been in the music game for a few years now. Played with disquieting intensity by Jeremy Strong, Kendall made his musical performing debut on the show’s second season with a hip-hop tribute to his father, Waystar Royco chair Logan Roy, on the stage of a particularly epic/off-the-rails company shareholder meeting. (Yes, it’s as bizarre as it sounds.) Now, with the belated release of Succession’s Season 3 soundtrack, we have another musical nugget from the show to share: Kendall Roy’s live cover of Billy Joel’s “Honesty.”
Billy Joel isn’t taking too many wild musical swings these days. His performing life mostly revolves around a once-monthly helicopter commute from Long Island to Madison Square Garden, where he has performed in-residence, save for a pandemic pause, since 2014. While some artists use their runs at the Garden to pull out deep cuts or spontaneous stunts, the hallmark of Joel’s performances—which now exceed 100—has long been their reliability. In a given MSG setlist you can count on hearing all of Joel’s hits in fine form, albeit in a slightly different jumble from month-to-month. A surprise grab might constitute relative standbys like “Zanzibar” or “All For Leyna.” Even in the realm of covers, Joel and his long-running band haven’t gone much beyond a trusty rotation of karaoke rock anthems. Play it, Piano Man.
‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
When Bruce Springsteen invited Billy Joel to play with him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 40th anniversary concert, he described their meeting as the “Bridge and Tunnel Summit.” This crossover surprised no one; the two artists are similar in many ways, riding careers that exploded from modest singer-songwriter origins playing dive bars to filling stadiums across the world. But one of the ways their trajectories have diverged: The Tunnel side of that equation (that’s Bruce from New Jersey) is about 100 times cooler than the Bridge side (Billy from Long Island). As a result, Springsteen songs have been covered far more often than Joel tunes, despite both having quite a few household-name hits under their belt.
Or maybe they’ve just been covered differently. When we did our Springsteen list, we had an abundance of genre-spanning covers to choose from, the hippest artists around finding meaning in Bruce’s work from every conceivable direction. Doing this month’s Joel list, we had an abundance too – of lounge piano. So much lounge piano.
Joel’s songs deserve better treatment than they often get. So we had to dig deep for this list, sifting through the schlock. There’s a little jazzy piano sprinkled in here and there, sure, but there’s also hardcore punk, ’90s R&B, spectral folk, robot electronica, south-of-the-border disco, and more. Turns out there are plenty of revelatory Billy Joel covers out there; they’re just lurking a little below the surface.
The list begins on Page 2.
Bob Dylan has never exactly been a loquacious interviewee. From the ’60s, when he would spend interviews mocking the press, to the ’10s, where he rarely bothers giving interviews at all, comments from Bob on any given subject are usually relatively few and far between. But I was curious, as we prepare to launch our 100 Best Bob Dylan Covers Ever list on Monday, what Dylan covers has the man himself remarked upon?
In recent years, jazz singer José James has recorded tribute albums that paid homage to both Billie Holiday and Bill Withers. He continued this theme on his new album No Beginning No End 2 by including a cover of another song by a guy named Billy. This time it’s Billy Joel’s much-maligned wedding staple “Just the Way You Are.”