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Billy Joel to receive Gershwin Prize for Popular Song from Library of Congress

Billy Joel will receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington announced July 22, terming Joel "a storyteller of the highest order."

Billy Joel is recipient of Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Library of Congress announced July 22. Award will be presented in November.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Billy Joel wins Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, Library of Congress announced July 22
Billy Joel, Gershwin Prize recipient. Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

"The Entertainer" and "Piano Man" Joel, whose career spans more than half a century, said, "The great composer, George Gershwin, has been a personal inspiration to me throughout my career. And the Library’s decision to include me among those songwriters who have been past recipients is a milestone for me."

Previous recipients are Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, songwriting duo Burt Bacharach and the late Hal David, and Carole King.

The lifetime achievement award honors Joel's goal of writing songs that "meant something during the time in which I lived... and transcended that time."

They include, "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me", "New York State of Mind", " Uptown Girl", "She's Always a Woman", "Only the Good Die Young", and "Big Shot". To hear some of his songs, click here.

Hear him in concert here at Washington Nationals Park on July 26.

Joel's numerous classics "have acted as personal and cultural touchstones for millions of people," Billington said in the announcement July 22. The songs' "intimacy...bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music."

The singer-songwriter-performer will receive the coveted Gershwin Prize in November, with a series of events including a concert at the Library of Congress and a White House ceremony.

The Gershwin Prize honors a living musical artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting the genre of song as a vehicle of cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations, the Library said.

Multi-GRAMMY™-winner (and GRAMMY Legend Award) Joel is the sixth top-selling artist of all time and the third top-selling solo artist of all time, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. He received that association's America Diamond Award, for albums that have sold more than 10 million copies.

Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992, Joel received that organization’s highest honor, the Johnny Mercer Award, in 2001. In 1999, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he was a 2013 Kennedy Center Honoree.

He has also won a Tony Award in 2003 for "Movin' Out", a Broadway musical based on Joel’s music, choreographed and directed by Twyla Tharp.

His recent, frequently aired documentary, "A Matter of Trust--The Bridge to Russia", follows his 1987 tour in the former Soviet Union. He was the first American pop star to bring a full rock production there.

He notes in the documentary, "I wanted to have an answer when my daughter said, 'Dad, what did you do during the Cold War?'"

For all of these reasons, there's no doubt "You May Be Right" in awarding Joel the Gershwin Prize.

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