When Controversy Led To A Hit For Billy Joel

By Linda Speckhals
Billy Joel plays Madison Square Garden in New York, NY, December 1978. (Photo by Don Aters/Icon and Image/Getty Images)
Billy Joel was born in 1949. He got an early start in music; as Joel told Uncut in 1998, his first gig was around 1964 in a church. At this first performance he played Beatles covers and Virginia Callaghan, the girl who is the “Virginia” in “Only the Good Die Young,” stared at him throughout his performance. Once he was paid for the show, he was hooked because he recognized that music could bring him both money and girls. This realization led to his failure to graduate with his class. The night before an exam which would determine whether he graduated, he was playing a late-night gig and he missed the exam. He chose not to go to summer school to earn his diploma but instead decided to pursue a career in music. He did eventually earn his diploma in 1992, after submitting essays to the school board in place of the exam. 
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