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A Daughter, a Father and Billy Joel

Last updated on Feb 8, 2016

By Moa Golster
Staff Writer

Music was a natural part of my childhood. My siblings and I attended the Swedish Music School at an early age, and my parents moonlit their academic occupations with jazz performances at night. Harmonious singing during family road trips was an inevitable pastime, and at home, my parents’ collection of jazz music played as a constant soundtrack on the record player.

Even before I knew what jazz music was, I decided I did not like the unpredictable ba-bi-di-bopping. To my father’s outspoken dissatisfaction, I would always turn it off. Thereafter, I went through his large collection of CDs until I found my favorite; the one with all the colors—Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” from 1993—and played it.

As I started to sing along to songs like “No Man’s Land” and “Two Thousand Years” with my made-up-English lyrics, my father would instantly forget my recent interruption, and join me. Together, we would sing along to these songs that we shared an affinity for, and the feeling was exhilarating. The generational gap—non-existent.

Usually, his sudden excitement developed into nostalgia. Before I knew it, I was obliged to follow him on a trip down Memory Lane, to the good ole ‘80s, when MTV actually played music, and shoulder pads seemed to find their way into everything. But perhaps more importantly: when my, at the time, 17-year- old father discovered the musical treasure of a little man from Hicksville, N.Y., named Billy Joel.

It was 1980. My father had just left Sweden for Memphis to do a year as an exchange high school student, when his American host brother, Russell, insisted on showing him his new Tennessean hometown.

As they were cruising in the Buick, Russell played Joel’s album “The Stranger” from 1977. Amazed with what he was hearing, my father asked Russell to take him to the nearest record store.

Before he went to bed that night, he had caught up on seven albums and nine years of Billy Joel’s music. It was only the beginning for Joel, but my father was stuck for life. During my early days by the CD player, singing and listening to my father’s memories, I adopted the bond to Joel’s music that he had discovered 25 years before me. Although I am well aware that it is not particularly cool to share these kinds of opinions with your parents, Joel is still my favorite artist.

This year, Joel turns 65. He has not released any new music since the “Fantasies & Delusions” album in 2001. That was enough reason for me to assume that his days of live performing were over. Oh, was I wrong!

Celebrating 50 years as an artist, Joel announced a show in Madison Square Garden on Jan. 27, which sold out immediately. Since then, he has established a residency at the prestigious venue, with a show every month from March to September. All of them sold out.

Miraculously—well, thanks to the very generous parents of my boyfriend—I ended up with second hand tickets, two weeks before the January show. So, on that Monday, it was time to fulfill a life-long dream. Remarkably younger, but nonetheless excited like my fellow concertgoers, I experienced a night not soon forgotten. As Joel fired off one well-known hit after another, he proved that he’s still got it. Only during his small talk in between songs could you tell that Joel is getting older—a fact he did not hesitate to joke about.

The crowd seemed to sing along to every word throughout the evening, myself included. Iconic melodies were the highlight of the night; during songs like “New York State of Mind” and “Piano Man” the enthusiasm in the venue was mind-blowing.

Somewhere in the middle of the evening, familiar African rhythms morphed into “River of Dreams.” I could not help but think about home: the CD collection, my favorite one with all the colors, and my father. My father. I wish he could have been there with me.

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