The Piano Man lyrics still inspire the imagination. Billy Joel certainly created a masterpiece when he penned this song.
This soft rock classic dates back to 1972. At the time, Joel was performing in a Los Angeles bar, reportedly called “The Executive Room”, and became friends with the crowd who came to hear him.
Joel describes the patrons with insight and wit. While each one has his or her own story, they all find themselves together enjoying the music of the piano player. They are looking to him to uplift their spirits after a hard day and to make them feel all right for a little while.
The Piano Man lyrics have become something of a legend among music fans.
Listeners look for hidden meaning in the places that seem a bit mysterious. Let’s take a look at the characters and what we can tell about each.
- an old man sitting near Bill
- John, the bartender
- the waitress
- Bill, the piano man
The first character is the old man who wants Bill to play him a song that will bring back a certain memory. He seems to be pretty inebriated, however, and can’t really remember the song.
The bartender is named John, and like bartenders tend to do, he has become friends with Bill. He has no doubt made friends with all the patrons. After all, there’s more to being a good bartender than just knowing how to mix drinks. Still, John expresses discontent, because his real dream is to become a movie star.
And then there’s Paul, who is a bachelor. He has a dream of writing the great American novel, but supports himself selling real estate. He’s visiting with a fellow named Davy. Davy is referred to as being in the Navy for the rest of his life.
The waitress in John’s bar has an interest in politics that she is sharing with the patrons, and they apparently tolerate her, since their drinks are starting to take effect.
The overall picture is that they all have broken dreams and frustrations, but by coming together to listen to the piano man, they can all forget their troubles for a little while.
There are some unanswered questions in this story which intrigue the imagination. For instance, did John perhaps come to L.A. to pursue a career in acting? Maybe he’s a Midwest farm boy who came to the big city to be a star, but feels stuck in a dead end job with no time to try out for movie roles.
And what about Paul? He says he wants to work on his novel, but he’s a workaholic real estate agent instead. Davy raises questions, too. Is he really a career sailor? Or is he simply living in the past, remembering when he was a young sailor with an exciting life? Was he in one of the wars?
The last line in the last verse of the Piano Man lyrics, however, has to bring a smile.
They all seem to realize that Billy Joel is an awfully talented musician to be playing piano in a two-bit bar for tips in a jar!