By Tara Mae
Music is often a meander through memory; it enraptures listeners with emotional remembrance and resonance. Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame’s (LIMEHOF) newest exhibit, Billy Joel, My Life — A Piano Man’s Journey, is a nuanced trip through time and tempo so intuitively evocative that it seemed to stun the piano man himself.
“It is a little intimidating,” Billy Joel said to a gathering of press, LIMEHOF board members, and other inductees, at the exhibit preview on Tuesday, Nov. 21. LIMEHOF Chairman Ernie Canadeo, Exhibit Designer Kevin O’Callaghan, and radio personality Bob Buchmann also spoke, remarking on Joel’s legacy and ongoing accomplishments.
A retrospective revealed through multimedia, My Life spans more than 50 years of the Grammy Award winning artist’s life and career, beginning with his childhood on Long Island through his current residency at Madison Square Garden. With no announced end date, the show, on display now, is an audio-visual sensation.
Featuring photos, video installations, personal memorabilia, artifacts, and, of course, music, the exhibit includes everything from Joel’s primary school class photo to set lists, instruments, a motorcycle, his MTV Video Music Awards, and many other personal paraphernalia.
“It was incredibly rewarding to watch Billy’s eyes as he was walking around the exhibit, saying, ‘Where did you guys get all of this stuff? It’s unbelievable,’” Canadeo said.
All the items, many from Joel’s personal collection, are notes in the score that comprise the soundtrack of his life. Visitors may enjoy their own theme songs as a jukebox offering Joel’s repertoire helps set the mood, and the piano he played on tour with Elton John rotates on a moving stage. Behind it, on a giant screen, footage plays of him performing at Shea Stadium.
Providing a multi-tonal presentation of Joel’s evolution from struggling songman to undeniable superstardom, My Life is a multi-sensory experience. The exhibit is a comprehensive homage to Joel’s past, present, and passions. It embodies both the personal and professional elements of his life.
“People are going to be emotional and very impressed with what we have collected because they have not seen most of what we have here,” Canadeo added. “It really does represent Billy’s journey: from his humble beginning [on Long Island] to becoming one of the biggest music stars in the world. And, we cover pretty much every aspect of that, all the way through.”
Throughout this trajectory, Long Island arguably serves at both opening act and supporting player. “The show is not only a tribute to Billy, but it is a tribute to Billy’s relationship with Long Island,” Canadeo said.
Tracing the development of the musician and the man, My Life chronicles different facets of Joel’s story: childhood in Hicksville; teenage keyboardist for the rock group The Hassles; working musician; motorcycle aficionado; and, world renowned artist with many multiplatinum albums to his name.
This is the first time Joel has agreed to an exhibit of this nature. “We found that he had never agreed to doing an exhibition, ever. And so that was really the big conflict I had; the mission I had was to convince him to let us to do this. And the way I did it was the realization of his loyalty to his friends,” O’Callaghan said. “He is a very loyal guy. So, the show, if you look around, it is about his influences, people who influenced him and vice versa.”
Composed by music lovers for music lovers in honor of an internationally recognized music lover, the exhibit is tribute to more than Billy Joel; it is a communal celebration. Artist, exhibit architects, and audience share one fundamental trait: they are all fans.
The exhibit lauds this musical reverence. A revelatory reflection on the sustenance for the soul music provides, My Life explores the scope of its impact. As patrons walk in, they are first greeted by The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, a pivotal moment for the development of the modern music scene and Joel’s own artistic awakening.
Other artists are represented as part of Joel’s musical development and devotion.
“It is not only Billy Joel, we have on display Otis Redding, we have Paul McCartney, we have George Gershwin. [Joel] loved that idea of showcasing his influences and musical friends. And, he actually said to me, ‘So, it is going to be a party with my friends,’ and I said, ‘It is going to be a party with your friends.’ And that’s what kind of sold him on it,” O’Callaghan added.
That sense of camaraderie creates kinship between artist and appreciators as it permeates the exhibit’s atmosphere. Such a symphony of synchronicity is a symbiotic relationship that unites all participants in their mutual musical dedication. Bonds born of these shared interests are key components of My Life, incorporating both the keepsakes themselves and honoring those who treasure them.
Among the items donated by Joel are mementos lent by two of his biggest supporters, Eric Fellen and Paul Fierro. “They found us and were very generous and really this would not have happened without their help. It would have been a much, much softer show; we went over the top with what they had,” O’Callaghan said.
Such enthusiasm underscores every aspect of My Life. Common appreciation for Joel encapsulates what the artist enjoys as well as the ways he is able to continue connecting with his listeners.
“I love music…most people do, and I am very glad that we all ended up loving the same thing,” Joel said at the exhibit’s reception.
Located at 97 Main Street, Stony Brook, LIMEHOF is open Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 11a.m. to 6 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays from11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $35 for adults; $32.50 for seniors/veterans; and, $20 for students age 13+. For more information, call 631-689-5888 or visit www.limusichalloffame.org.