Everyone loves an underdog story, and despite its legendary status, that’s the story of The Stranger. It was Joel’s fifth full-length, but in some ways it felt like his debut. Despite having a few hits to his name, his genius had been hampered by a string of overly slick producers who didn’t connect with his musical vision. He may not have known that his career was on the chopping block, but he knew that his next record had to be exactly the type of music he’d always wanted to capture — on his terms.
A series of events led to that being possible: First, Joel dropped his management and hired his wife, Elizabeth Webster. Second, he insisted on recording only with his live band, no more session musicians. Then came a series of shows at New York City’s landmark Carnegie Hall, performances during which he’d debut his latest material and impress the man who would go on to become his longtime producer, Phil Ramone.
And there it was, the magical combination that would lead Billy Joel to create his true opus, The Stranger. We lay out the groundwork for how all of this came to be in the first episode of The Opus: The Stranger, featuring archival interviews with Joel and Ramone, plus a fresh conversation with Joel’s drummer, Liberty DeVito.
Listen to Episode 1 above, and make sure to like, review, and subscribe to The Opus wherever you get your podcasts to keep up with the rest of the new season from Consequence Podcast Network and Sony Legacy.
For more of the Piano Man, stream or download the The Stranger here, and also check out the recently released Live at Yankee Stadium, capturing Joel’s 1990 two-night stand at The House That Ruth Built. You can also snag tickets to Joel’s upcoming concerts, including a 2023 co-headlining tour with Stevie Nicks, here.
Fans of The Opus podcast can also pick up an official Opus hoodie or T-Shirt at the Consequence Shop or by using the buy-now buttons below.