Billy Joel’s keyboardist and Musical Director David Rosenthal has carefully arranged all the tracks from the Piano Man’s iconic “Greatest Hits Volume I & II,” combining the piano parts and vocal melodies into playable arrangements with accurate transcriptions of those classic piano parts that are integral to each song. All 26 hit songs from the double album are in this collection, including: Allentown • Big Shot • The Entertainer • Honesty • It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me • Just the Way You Are • The Longest Time • Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) • New York State of Mind • Only the Good Die Young • Piano Man • She’s Always a Woman • Tell Her About It • Uptown Girl • You May Be Right • and more. This souvenir folio also includes a foreword by Rosenthal plus great photos of Billy.
Click to read David’s Foreword
Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II is one of the best-selling albums of all time. With more than 23 million units sold, it is tied with Pink Floyd’s The Wall and Led Zeppelin IV for the third most certified album of all time in the US.
Released in 1985, the album includes Billy’s hits from 1973 to 1985 mostly in chronological order. It also includes two previously unreleased songs — “You’re Only Human (Second Wind)” and “The Night is Still Young”. Both were released as singles and they too became hits. Some pressings of Greatest Hits included “Honesty” instead of “Don’t Ask Me Why” so both songs are included in this folio.
Having played keyboards in Billy Joel’s band since 1993, I have an inside perspective into his music. Accordingly, Billy asked that I review every note of the sheet music in his entire catalog of songs. As a pianist, he entrusted me with the task of correcting and re-transcribing each piece to ensure that the printed music represents each song exactly as it was written and recorded. This is the latest edition in our series of revised songbooks in the Billy Joel catalog.
The challenge with each folio in Billy’s catalog is to find musical ways to combine his piano parts and vocal melodies into playable piano arrangements. First, the signature piano parts are transcribed and notated exactly as Billy played them. The vocal melodies are then transcribed and incorporated into the piano part in a way that preserves the original character of each song. Billy’s piano embellishments between his vocal phrases are also included wherever they’re playable along with the vocal melodies.
The bouncy groove of “You’re Only Human” is carried by the upbeat synth chords and the bass line and their combined rhythm creates the main feel of the song. During the verses they cannot be played simultaneously with the vocal melody, so in these places the upbeat synth chords appear only when playable. The flashy synth-horn lines are included in the piano part wherever possible, otherwise these lines are written into the vocal staff as cue notes. The sax & vocal unison scat solo is also written out.
The original studio recording of “She’s Got a Way” first appeared on the Cold Spring Harbor album, but it was Billy’s incredible live version on the Songs in the Attic album that made the song a smash hit. Some of Billy’s vocal phrasing and piano voicings in this live performance are slightly different from the original recording, so the sheet music in this book matches the live version that appeared on Greatest Hits.
Since this is a Greatest Hits songbook, most of the songs in this folio also appear in my other Billy Joel songbooks from their respective albums. Each of those books includes a foreword in which I point out some of the musical features in the songs and how they were notated in that book. While the musical nuances in this songbook are far too many to detail, following are some excerpts from the forewords in those books:
From the Streetlife Serenade album:
“The Entertainer” has the acoustic guitar and piano parts combined into a playable piano part. Each of the catchy synth melodies are included wherever they happen on the record.
From the Piano Man album:
The instantly recognizable intro to “Piano Man” is transcribed note for note, and the harmonica parts are written into the piano part to sound as close to the record as possible when played on piano.
In “Captain Jack” the piano flourishes in the verses are included wherever they are playable between the vocal phrases.
From the Turnstiles album:
The classic “New York State of Mind” has the complete intro written out, but I also indicated where to start if you would like to begin with a simpler 4-bar intro. The full ending is written out and an optional shorter ending is also included.
From The Stranger album:
For the intro and ending of “The Stranger”, the thematic piano melody and the accompanying chord voicings are transcribed exactly. During the whistle section the piano voicings are modified slightly so that the whistle melody can be played at the same time as the accompaniment.
On “She’s Always a Woman”, the piano part includes the rolling piano arpeggios and acoustic guitar parts combined with the vocal melody into a playable piano part that sounds like the record.
In prior versions of the sheet music for “Just The Way You Are”, the famous Fender Rhodes intro had the Dsus chord incorrectly written as a D Major chord. Over the years Billy joked about this many times in interviews and lectures and I’m pleased to report that this has been corrected! His classic intro is now accurate — the Dsus chord is correctly voiced along with all the exact notes he played on the signature intro. Many other chords, voicings and melody notes have also been corrected throughout the song. The iconic sax solo by Phil Woods is also written out with supporting harmonies and made into a playable piano part.
The instantly recognizable intro to “Italian Restaurant” is written exactly as Billy played it and the flashy opening to the Brenda and Eddie section is transcribed note for note. The piano embellishments throughout the song are captured wherever its possible to play them in between the vocal melodies. At the end of the Brenda and Eddie section the main theme returns as symphonic reiteration followed by a beautifully composed classical variation on the verse. This too is written out exactly as Billy played it.
The catchy piano intro on “Only The Good Die Young” is written exactly as Billy played it. On the recording the song fades out so I included the ending exactly as we play it live, featuring Billy’s flashy piano break into the final ending chords.
From the 52nd Street album:
Although each of the verses on “My Life” sound similar, there are subtleties in the piano accompaniment and in the arrangement that change from verse to verse. All of the verses have been written out rather than using repeats in order to capture the subtle differences in the vocal melody and in the piano answers. On the original recording it fades out, so I added an optional ending that matches how we play it live.
The classic intro and ending piano parts in “Honesty” are written exactly as Billy played them, and the voicings of the piano accompaniment throughout the song are captured wherever they are playable along with the melody.
From the Glass Houses album:
On “Don’t Ask Me Why”, the piano plays throughout the song and the vocal melody is easily playable on top of the chords. However, in the solo section there are actually two piano parts. The parts are very similar and are played in different octaves, giving the solo a “four-hand” sound. For this section I created a single piano part that represents the basic sound of the two pianos, while the left hand plays the bass line.
From The Nylon Curtain album:
The ascending thematic intro of “Goodnight Saigon” is played many times throughout the song. However, each time it is slightly different depending on which part of the song it transitions to. The subtle variations of this theme are critical in tying together the different sections of the song, so each of these piano parts are transcribed exactly.
From the Innocent Man album:
On “Tell Her About It,” the signature horn lines in the intro are combined with the Richard Tee piano part in the right hand, while the bass lines are covered by the left hand. Throughout the song the horn lines are included wherever its possible to play them, and of course the bari sax answers in the chorus are there too.
All of the songs in this collection received the same astute attention to detail. The result is sheet music that is both accurate and enjoyable to play, and remains true to the original performances.
Billy and I are pleased to present the revised and now accurate sheet music to the classic album Greatest Hits Volume I & Volume II.