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Jamie Cullum in conversation with one of his musical heroes - the legendary American pianist, performer and composer Billy Joel. Part 1 of 2.

Jamie Cullum meets one of his musical heroes - the legendary American musician, performer and composer Billy Joel. From his early days covering "British Invasion" hits in the clubs around his New York home, to his sell out residencies at Madison Square Garden, Billy has established himself as one of the greats of popular music.

In two special 60-minute programmes, Jamie Cullum - a life-long fan of Billy and his music - talks to him about his career, his songwriting, and the great musicians and singers who have influenced him.

He recalls growing up in a musical household, his mother dragging a reluctant eight-year old Billy to piano lessons and his slowly developing love for classical music. "Chopin, Beethoven, Debussy...I love all that stuff, that's all I listen to now, I don't listen to pop music any more."

And Billy recalls the impact of seeing The Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan show.

"They didn't look like they were Hollywood stars, they weren't fabricated, they were like a bunch of working class guys from a town called Liverpool. And we said 'Who the hell are these guys? They don't look like Frankie Avalon, they don't look like Fabian, they look like us'. You could relate to it. And that was a eureka moment"

Jamie gets to the heart of Billy's songwriting and composing methods: the observation, the storytelling and the complex musical structures borrowed from his favourite classical composers. Even Gilbert and Sullivan get a namecheck from Billy for influencing one of his best-loved songs. And we hear howBilly composed all his hits "backwards", compared to most songwriters. "I always write the music first. 99.9% of the time, the music comes first. Not the lyrics, I have no idea what I'm going to write about, I have no idea what the words are going to be."

Jamie and Billy discuss the stories behind his biggest hits and the lesser known album tracks that have become live show favourites. And Billy explains why he's released virtually no new pop material since 1993. "People say 'Thought you weren't writing anymore?' - well I am, I'm just not writing songs. I'm writing music. And I have been for the past 27 years."

Billy also talks about his deep love for jazz, the influence it has on his own work and his admiration for great jazz piano players like Oscar Peterson and Bill Evans.

A rare and exclusive chance to hear two great performers sit down and talk about their shared love of music.

1 hour

Last on

Tue 6 Dec 2016 22:00

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Music Played

  • Billy Joel & Richard Hyung-Ki Joo


    • Fantasies & Delusions.
    • Columbia.
  • Billy Joel

    She's Got A Way

    • Cold Spring Harbour.
    • Family Productions.
  • Oscar Peterson

    In The Still Of the Night

    • Oscar Peterson Plays Cole Porter.
    • Music For Pleasure.
  • The Beatles

    Love Me Do (Pop Go the Beatles session, 23 Jul 1963)

    • Please Please Me.
    • Parlophone.
  • Billy Joel

    Everybody Loves You Know

    • Cold Spring Harbour.
    • Family Productions.
  • Billy Joel

    The Entertainer

    • Streetlife Serenade.
    • Columbia.
  • Billy Joel

    Piano Man

    • Piano Man.
    • Columbia.
  • Billy Joel

    New York State Of Mind

    • Turnstiles.
    • Columbia.
  • Bill Evans

    I Loves You, Porgy

    • Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
    • Verve.