Billy Joel: Change of Heart and an Obama Endorsement

At a luncheon at the National Press Club, Joel talked about his first political endorsement.

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Sure, he may have performed alongside Bruce Springsteen last week at a New York fundraiser for Barack Obama, but "Piano Man" Billy Joel is not too keen on musicians endorsing politicians. "I get insulted when I'm at a show and somebody starts talking to me about political stuff—you know I didn't come here to hear that song," Joel told luncheon guests at the National Press Club in Washington. "In a way, it's condescending."

In fact, the Obama fundraiser was the first political one he's ever done. "People who pay for your tickets, I don't think they want to hear who you're going to vote for and how you think they should vote," Joel said. Throughout his four-decades-long career, Joel actively avoided political endorsements until now. "So I kind of blew that one out of the water," he said.

Why the change of heart? "Over the last few months, there's a quote that keeps occurring to me, and it's a Dante quote, 'The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis,' and I thought, 'Oh, OK, I don't want to be in that place.' " Joel explained, not getting the quotation quite right. "So I did the fundraiser."

Joel then chatted for about an hour while playing bits and pieces of his songs on the piano and mostly avoiding the topic of politics. At the end of the Piano Man's appearance, National Press Club President Sylvia Smith asked: "Which of your songs would you choose to be the theme song for each presidential campaign, or would you play us one song all the way through?" He opted for the latter, bellowing out "Summer, Highland Falls."

—Nikki Schwab