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Billy Joel Fans Protest

April 17, 1999

Billy Joel's music has no soul?

Why the contemptuous and dismissive tone of Natalie Nichols' review ("Just Like the Old Days," April 10)? Speaking of borrowing, her judgment seems to be be unduly influenced by the insufferable and tone deaf Robert Hilburn. Can't the Los Angeles Times send anybody who isn't suspicious of Billy Joel's skill and versatility?

Borrowing from Bruce Springsteen? What's so original about Springsteen's music? It may shout sincerity but to me is utterly undistinguished--not to mention derivative of Dylan, Spector and others. Billy Joel doesn't need to borrow from Springsteen.

Adding little substance to the forms?

Who else could have written "Leningrad," "Goodnight Saigon," or "Rosalinda's Eyes?" These are just a few examples off the top of my head that communicate heartfelt tenderness and depth of feeling that hardly seems "shallow," "silly" or "borrowed."

Like everyone else, Billy Joel has written plenty of mediocre songs, and, yes, a lot of his songs intentionally pay homage to the styles of recording artists he admires, but he almost always brings a point of view to these tributes, especially in the lyrics, that make them uniquely his.

Billy Joel has earned my admiration and respect. Hilburn and Nichols have not.

JOSEPH MULROY

Newport Beach

Were you at the same concert I was at? When it comes to "obvious choices" on choosing songs for a show, how does an artist decide without making the concert more than four hours long (which his fans would not have minded) the right ones to choose?

Sure, everyone has their favorites. I screamed for "Vienna" when Billy Joel asked us to choose between that and "New York State of Mind." But you know what? There are no bad choices, only hard decisions.

"She's Always a Woman" was only an "obvious choice" to you. How about his Grammy Award-winning "Just the Way You Are" or "Matter of Trust." Those are two excellent choices. Personally, I didn't mind not hearing that one.

But what pleased me more (a true BJ fan) was the fact that he included songs that were not singles but are great songs that should have been big hits--"Goodnight Saigon," "Scene From an Italian Restaurant" are two good examples.

"Borrowing from such brighter lights" as Springsteen--yeah, the Boss is surely known for his "silly love songs"--Joel isn't borrowing from anyone except maybe Ray Charles.

If you'd attend more than one Billy Joel concert (and I've seen more than 40 of them) you'd know that his onstage antics are really him, not mere ploys to "act spontaneous."

And as far as his music not having "soul," I think that the more than 20,000 fans were at the Pond that night would disagree with you. But it's still a free country and you are entitled to your opinion, even if it's wrong. "Thanks for the music, Billy."

PAULA YOUNG

Laguna Niguel

Music critic Natalie Nichols shows boundless contempt for Billy Joel's fans, contrasting their "love," "delight" and "cheers" for Joel with her own comments that Joel's performance (or, in her words, yakking and mugging) "rarely rang true," offered only a "shallow gloss" in place of "real emotion" and "has no soul."

Many music critics today dismiss any song that isn't about shooting other people, as in much rap music, or about shooting yourself, as in much grunge and thrash. These critics have forgotten how to appreciate a good tune. They are in large part responsible for the sorry state of pop music today.

VIK RUBENFELD

Santa Monica

Surely Natalie Nichols knew Billy Joel's music before she went to the show. If she didn't like it (or him), it would have shown a little character for her to decline the assignment.

PHILIP ARLEN

Ventura

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