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Billy Joel: The Piano Man In A New York State Of Mind

Billy Joel is one of five honorees at "The 36th Annual Kennedy Center Honors". Airing Sunday, December 29th 9:00-11:00 PM, PT on CBS.

Soon after he started out in show business after being inspired by The Beatles when the Fab Four appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," Billy Joel dropped out of high school and became one of the Lost Souls. Don't get excited. That was the name of the 64-year-old's group in 1965 after the original band members changed their name from the Echoes. Subsequently, the man who likes to write songs about New York City was also in groups called The Hassles and Attila.

PHOTOS: 2013 Kennedy Center Honors

Once a Long Island-based boxer who won 22 out of 24 bouts, Billy Joel broke his nose during that last fight and began looking for a new career soon thereafter. It didn't take long before this talent became a Grammy Award-winning singer who could boast seven albums in a row that made it to the top 40. His first, "Piano Man," dropped in 1973.

Joel was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2004, the accomplished artist was given his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Distinguished as the third highest-selling solo artist of all time after Elvis Presley and Garth Brooks, Billy Joel produced a 1977 Grammy-winning album of his work called "The Stranger" that is said to be Columbia Records' most successful. Meanwhile, his 1977 song "Just The Way You Are" has reportedly been played on the radio more than any other.

The classically trained pianist came a long way from tickling the ivories on the Shangri-La's 1965 anthem "Leader of the Pack" when Joel was only 16. But Billy Joel's music doesn't just come in just one form. For instance, he collaborated with top choreographer Twyla Tharp to create "Movin' Out" which, in 2003, won two Tony Awards out of the 10 that were nominated for the acclaimed musical.

Billy Joel is one of five artists to be honored by the Kennedy Center in 2013 despite the fact that this self-deprecating talent says he's "...just this shlubby guy who plays the piano" and who likens himself to Bubbles the Chimp. In fact, Joel might possibly say he is not worthy of this enduring recognition. But he is, very much so.

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Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on

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