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CNN Live Event/Special


Aired August 20, 2022 - 21:00   ET



PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: It's not funny, but it's a good response. Officials at the Belle Isle Park said they'll be making some adjustments to slow the ride down. Let's say so.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening. I'm Phil Mattingly. I'll see you again here tomorrow night starting at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. "EXTRAORDINARY" with Fareed Zakaria is up next.


FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST (voice-over): There's an element of alchemy and making music almost a sorcery or a magic that I don't necessarily understand, but I know that it moves me.


ZAKARIA (voice-over): It's only human emotions. For some reason, we can tap into that musicians.



ZAKARIA (on-camera): When we came up with this idea of doing a series of in-depth interviews with really extraordinary people, we started thinking about whom we should try to get and whom we should ask. And we talked about the usual political figures, Obama, the Dalai Lama, and I kept coming back to the idea of interviewing the person I really wanted to interview. And that was Billy Joel.

And the reason is that I've been in love with his music ever since I was a teenager, growing up in India.

(voice-over): Billy Joel has been a rock star for five decades. Today, he keeps up his nearly 10 yearlong residency at Madison Square Garden, playing the piano and belting out the lyrics that so many fans adore. He sold more than 150 million records. But he hasn't recorded a new rock album in almost 30 years. I wanted to understand all this, I wanted to understand him and his talent.

(on-camera): So here we are on our way to Billy Joel's house. I'm excited. A little nervous. We'll see how it goes. Fingers crossed. I still remember hearing "Glass Houses", getting the album "The Vinyl." And that photograph of you with the rock and you're about to throw it.


ZAKARIA: It was electric.


ZAKARIA: So you write for.

BILLY JOEL, AMERICAN SINGER: I write for me. I mean, it may sound selfish. It may sound self-serving, but the only person that I know who can judge what I'm doing correctly is me. I know when I've written something that's not that good. But I've also written some stuff which is really damn good. And when that happens, I'm very, you know, ecstatic. I don't know how that happened, but thank you. Almost as if I stuck my head into this rarefied atmosphere and it just came into me and went through my fingers.

ZAKARIA: When you think about your songs, what's the one you are most proud of That you feel like -- you were saying -- you know, when you write sometimes you think this is damn good?

JOEL: I think a song like "And So It Goes" is a song I'm very proud of. It's very short. It's very simple. There's not a lot of accompaniment. The chords are really evocative.


You here the dissonance? There's always a little bit of a sour note in every chord.


JOEL: It's an unresolved chord.

ZAKARIA: Like the tension there's a little --

JOEL: Yes.


JOEL: This tension through the whole thing.


JOEL: When I finished right there, I said, that's not, that's really good.

ZAKARIA: A lot of times when you write, you move by events. You know, your music is kind of rich with history and culture. So you hear about New York going bankrupt.

JOEL: Yes. ZAKARIA: And you hear about Ford saying to New York City dropped dead, that famous daily news headline. And that motivates you to write "Miami 2017," right?

JOEL: Yes.


JOEL: I mean, I'm part of the world also. Aside from being a musician, I'm affected by events. If you think about it, right before The Beatles hit, which was on The Ed Sullivan Show, February of 1964. What happened -- what major event happened just prior to that?

ZAKARIA: The assassination assassination of JFK.

JOEL: The assassination of John F. Kennedy. Who was the young, vital, vigorous man who was the president kind of represented youth in the future, and he was taken away from us. And the country had the blues and big time. Everybody was depressed over the Kennedy assassination. And it lasted for a long time.

Who took us out of that depression? The Beatles. They represented youth, they represented the future, they represented vitality.

ZAKARIA: You remember the first time you heard The Beatles? Was it that famous Ed Sullivan Show?

JOEL: The first time I saw them was on The Ed Sullivan Show. I heard them on the radio before that. I think it was "I Want to Hold Your Hand" was a big hit.


JOEL: And this was different. What is that? Who is that? That's The Beatles. And it changed my life. That's why I do what I do now because of what The Beatles did. This was like a band from a neighborhood. Kind of like me and my friends. They were working class guys. And they were hugely successful, and they made their own music. That's what I want to do.

ZAKARIA: How old were you when you were thinking that?

JOEL: In 1964, I was 14 years old.

ZAKARIA: So, but at this point, you have already had 10 years of piano classical piano lessons --

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: -- because you started at four.

JOEL: Right.

ZAKARIA: Do you look at that as a body of work and training that allowed you to do the kind of music you do now? JOEL: Now, I would have to say yes. At the time, I didn't know to what end I was learning how to play the piano. My father played the piano. He was a good pianist. But he worked at a corporation, doing another kind of work.

My mother was very musical she sang. And I took piano lessons because my mom wanted me to take piano lessons. I lived in a little Levitt house on a quarter acre. And we had an old Lester upright piano, which is not a very good piano. And I was taking lessons. To what end? I didn't know.

ZAKARIA: When you look at it now, do you think people have a gene for music and musical town because your father was a great pianist, your half brother is a great conductor?

JOEL: He's an opera conductor.

ZAKARIA: Your daughter now is an accomplished performer?

JOEL: Alexa, yes.

ZAKARIA: Or was it the hard work of all those years of the piano and then later with the bands?

JOEL: I think it's a combination of the two. I think there must be something genetic, which is inherent to be musical. You don't just pick up a guitar and still go bang and then you're instant star. There's a lot of work involved. But there's also the background. I grew up hearing all kinds of music. I was exposed to classical music at a young age, Broadway shows, folk music.

ZAKARIA: What was the first tune that you ever played?

JOEL: The first tune I ever played -- wait a minute, I'll show you this.


My daughter has the same book. I think I'm plugging this shamelessly.

ZAKARIA: The John Thompson.

JOEL: The John Thompson piano course. Book 1, first grade book. John Thompson, use it for piano. The first piece I learned was called, believe it or not, off we go to music land.

ZAKARIA: Do you remember it?

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Can you play it without looking at that?

JOEL: Here it is. OK. And it goes like this. And even has words. Off we go to music land. Learn by eye and ear and hand.

ZAKARIA: So when you were taking piano lessons and your mom's in the next room, and you're doing piano practice, and you're meant to be doing a Mozart sonata.

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: What would you actually do?

JOEL: Well, I would start to learn the piece so I got a feel for, you know, how it should go, say the Mozart sonata in C.


JOEL: And then the next part, this is it.


JOEL: But I wouldn't play that because that -- it was a lot of notes there. So I went --


JOEL: And would just make it up as I'm going along.

ZAKARIA: So that was -- you started with Mozart but then you just went into Billy Joel?

JOEL: Yes, I just made up my own stuff.

ZAKARIA: You were telling me that you thought "Uptown Girl" has a Mozartean element to it?


JOEL: Yes. If you break it down to its basics, it's --


JOEL: Then you end in Alberti bass.


JOEL: However you press (INAUDIBLE). Or hiddenness but it's from the Classical Period. And there's a couple of songs like that for "The Longest Time."


JOEL: It's very classic.

ZAKARIA: Yes. Could you mimic Beethoven?

JOEL: If I was going to mimic Beethoven it would be --


JOEL: It's always an edge of anxiety and --

(MUSIC) JOEL: -- and an unfulfillment and anger and passion and --

ZAKARIA: That's -- is that why you like him more than Mozart?

JOEL: I think Beethoven is one of the most human of composers because he wrote in fits and starts. Mozart is like perfect.


JOEL: He's like an angel, like he came down from heaven. And everything he writes is perfect, effortless. He just kind of glides along and plays exactly what should be played. Beethoven, I had a copy of the Ninth Symphony, the actual notation. And you see these huge pages scratched out, gouged out. Like he never wanted anybody to see the lousy stuff he wrote.

And I'm looking at this segment, he wrote, you know, in fits and starts, just like human emotions. And there's a lot of that in his music, fits and starts and insecurity and confidence, anger and love and passion. It's all there. Which is why I love Beethoven more than any other composer.



ZAKARIA: People often say that you're a great mimic. You've heard people say that, like you can riff off various, do you like that. You know, I mean Picasso said good good artists copy great artists, do you --

JOEL: Steal. Yes, there's probably something to that. It has to do with the ear. A lot of singers in pop music especially, love the voice of Ray Charles. They want to sing like Ray Charles. Rod Stewart wants to sing like Ray Charles. Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin wanted to sing like Ray Charles. Doesn't sound anything like Ray Charles, but that's his impression.

ZAKARIA: I always thought "New York State of Mind" was your homage to Ray Charles.

JOEL: You were exactly right. I was thinking of Ray Charles when I wrote it. Except I wrote it in such a high key. I don't know if Ray would be able to sing it. Some folks that to get away. It should be molar (ph). Some folks like to get away. Take a holiday from the neighborhood.

ZAKARIA: Would you wear dark glasses when you play it?

JOEL: Absolutely. Sure. But I thought of Ray Charles singing it in Yankee Stadium when I was writing the song. Yes.

ZAKARIA: And did you -- were you trying to do some kind of fusion? I mean, not just to Ray Charles but in general, you'd have some influence and then you try to meld it into some -- with something you were doing? JOEL: Well, a lot of times I'm thinking of somebody else other than me singing what I'm writing, because I don't like my own voice. I never did. I like to sound like somebody else and I'm thinking of somebody else when I'm writing. I want to conjure up somebody else. That allows me to go in any direction I want as a writer. It gives me a broad power.


ZAKARIA: Do you ever thought as to why your songs have lasted so long?

JOEL: They can be sung. Almost all of the great music which is still viable today is mostly melodic music that can be sung or hummed or whistled. A lot of atonal music is almost impossible for people to remember or whistle to. So I think it's because it was melodic in the first place.

ZAKARIA: When you write, you always say the music comes first.

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Does that mean -- take us through that process. You get up in the morning and you start humming something and that stays with you?

JOEL: A lot of times, I will have dreamt music that I don't instantly remember when I wake up, but I do know, what's that thing I dreamt last night? It was very -- and it was really good. It was almost symphonic. And I will spend a good amount of the day trying to recall on the piano by playing it went like this and it kind of went like that, trying to recall a dream.

That's what happened with just the way you are. I had dreamt it, I forgot it. And a few weeks went by and all of a sudden it really occurred to me. And I was in the middle of a meeting with an attorney and accountants. I said, I got to leave right now. I got to write this song. So they went, go, go, go, go, go, right.

And I'm just writing and I was thinking, I must have heard this before. Did I steal this from somebody else? This is just someone else's melody. And I realized, yes, you idiot. You wrote it in your dream. You dreamt it and you've -- the dream reoccurred. And it's hard to do.

I've tried to put a tape recorder next to my bed and hum into it and, you know, sing the melody and it always sounds like blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, like I can't figure out what I was doing. So it doesn't work like that.




ZAKARIA: Why do we need the words?

JOEL: Because that's what sells records.

ZAKARIA: But why? That's like -- because -- yes, I mean, is it what allows us to remember the tune?

JOEL: I think so. It's a way -- like when I was writing "Just The Way You Are," I didn't have the lyrics. I recall the melody and the chords.


You're just anything to hold on to the melody. I mean, The Beatles, as good as The Beatles are. If they didn't have lyrics in their songs., we probably wouldn't even know where they are.

ZAKARIA: And then you'd -- sometimes you'd bring stuff to the band and in the course of playing it will get redone?

JOEL: Well, I brought stuff to the band that they said that stings.

ZAKARIA: Really?

JOEL: Oh, yes. They don't hold back. My band is they're all from New York. This was back in the day. And they didn't like some -- the drummer would throw a sticks at me.

ZAKARIA: Liberty.

JOEL: Yes. Terrible, that sucks. There was one song, "Moving Out." Originally it went --


They looked at me like, that's "Laughter in the Rain" by Neil Sedaka. And I went, crap. I wrote all those words for nothing? So I changed the melody.


I wrote a whole new song.


So in a way, it was motivated to write a completely new song.

ZAKARIA: And when you talk about the ones that aren't that good, I'm struck by how -- when you talk about "Captain Jack," you say well, it's only got two chords and I don't understand what even -- what do you mean when you say -- for a layman, what does that mean? Why is it?

JOEL: It gets boring. "Captain Jack," you know, after having done it for 30 or 40 years, I've demoted him to "Private Jack." It's two courts.


And it's just -- (MUSIC)

Thank Goodness there's a chord change. Nor while --


ZAKARIA: When you wrote "Only the Good Die Young" you thought of it as a reggae song?

JOEL: Yes I did. I heard it as --


Like drummer again through sticks at me and --

ZAKARIA: How would the chorus have gone?


JOEL: My drummer said the closest you've ever been to Jamaica is on the Long Island Railroad. When you stop at Jamaica and you change trains to go to Manhattan.

ZAKARIA: But you could transpose them. You were like, OK, reggae doesn't working, I'm going to do something else.

JOEL: Well I said, let's come up with a different kind of rhythm like a -- instead of -- we did a shuffle.


So I credit the band for a lot of the arrangements.


ZAKARIA: Sometimes your lyrics seem to me to be counteracting the melody. So, for example, "Always a Woman To Me," the music is very soft and lyrical but then the words are kind of cutting.


JOEL: It's an effective technique for writing a song. When you -- they're opposites. She can kill with a smile. She can wound with her eyes. Lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah. You don't think that's going to be what the words are be.


JOEL: Lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah, lah. It was like a nice folk song.


JOEL: And then you hear she's just a complete bitch. And it just doesn't -- wait a minute.

ZAKARIA: (INAUDIBLE) and it's -- yes, suddenly it gets harsh.

JOEL: Yes, but there are other songs where the music actually complements with the lyric is "Summer Highland Falls," is kind of about manic depression. And it goes up and it goes down, it goes up it goes down, and this manic thing.


It is a bipolar --

ZAKARIA: Right, right.

JOEL: -- musical thing going on. And like us -- and so it goes which is the sad song about knowing that heartbreak is going to come and you have the --


You know this in eight notes?

ZAKARIA: Yes, yes.



ZAKARIA: When you think about how history affected you, there's a sad history there. Your grandfather was a very successful merchant in Nuremberg --

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: -- of all places. And then essentially, the Nazis because he's Jewish, destroy him. They stripped him off, all his businesses, forced them to sell. But to me the most pointed part of that story, and there's a great documentary about this, is that the last years of his life, he goes back to Germany, because I suppose it must have been at some level home for him.

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: And then your father does the same thing. He goes back to Vienna.

(voice-over): Billy was just seven years old when his father left the family. The two were out of touch for a decade and a half.

JOEL: And I went to Europe, and went to find my father. He thought I might have died in Vietnam. He didn't know anything about me.

ZAKARIA: He didn't know you were big rock star?

JOEL: I wasn't a big rock star when I -- I was just starting out. I just finished my first album when I went to Europe. And so, I found out all this stuff about my family that I didn't know just by, you know, going to Vienna. I found that I had a half brother, Alexander Joel. Wow.

ZAKARIA: Does the song "Vienna," in some way, a metaphor for that?


JOEL: Well, let's see slow down you crazy child, that could have been me. You're so ambitious for a juvenile. Yes. In some ways, yes.


JOEL: But it was also the age I was that, I was in my mid-20s, which is a difficult time for a lot of people because a lot of people think we got to have it all together before we hit 30. If we're not a success before we're 30, it's over, forget it, you're not going to make it. And there's all that pressure. And I saw it happening with my friends.

And after having been in Vienna and learning a lot about that culture, and Europe as well. So when you slow down, take it easy, there's a reason for every time in your life, there's a season for it. So I don't know what may be the world's greatest philosopher, but I decided that to be the lyric.

ZAKARIA: You don't talk about politics on stage. And really not at all as far as I can tell, why?

JOEL: Once in a blue moon, I do if something is really aggravating me. But I realized people pay a lot of money to go to concerts. And they didn't come to hear me talk about my political views. They came to hear the music. A lot of them came to escape from all of that.


JOEL: I'm not a politician. And I'm not a philosopher. I'm just a piano player. Don't forget that. Don't lose sight of that, you're a piano player. And people don't want to hear your politics. Even though something can be really on my mind and I'm dying to say it.


JOEL: I try not to, you know --

ZAKARIA: Because you think about -- yes, I mean, you're steeped in history. You're you're reading this stuff here. The one time that I know is after Charlottesville.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): You will not replace us! You will not replace us!

ZAKARIA: You wore a Star of David.

JOEL: I wore the yellow Star of David, yes. I didn't want to -- I didn't say anything.

ZAKARIA: Yes. JOEL: I just wore the Star of David. Because I know that if it was Nazi Germany, I would be defined as a Jew. Doesn't matter what you do. Doesn't matter who you are, what you've accomplished. You're a Jew, and that's it for you. You're out. And it all happened again and I had to say something, I had to do something because it happened to my father's family.

They were all wiped out except to his parents. They had to leave Germany in the middle of the night. Then my old man gets to New York. What happens? He gets drafted immediately. And then he has to go back to Germany and shoot school friends.


So he had a tough life and that has impacted me, that's affected me. A great deal. Even though I didn't know my father all that well, I recognize that his life must have been very difficult. And for me to be as successful as I am, is astonishing when I consider the background where I came from.


ZAKARIA: When did you try to commit suicide?

JOEL: I was 21.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): The year was 1970.

JOEL: When you have one foot still in childhood and another foot in adulthood, it's a difficult time for a lot of people. I felt like I was a musician but I was not successful. I wasn't making any money. I had no place to live. I had no prospects. And I thought, well the world doesn't need another failed musician. I was in a depressed state.

ZAKARIA: And then come say 1976, '77, '78, in that seven-year period, you release seven albums maybe?

JOEL: It would have been '71, would have been Cold Spring Harbor.


'73 would have been "Piano Man," '75 was "Streetlife", that's three. "Turnstiles" --

ZAKARIA: "Turnstiles" I think '76.

JOEL: -- '76.

ZAKARIA: "The Stranger" '77.

JOEL: Right. "52nd Street" --

ZAKARIA: "52nd Street" is '79.

JOEL: -- '79, yes. ZAKARIA: "Glass Houses" is '80.

JOEL: 1980.

ZAKARIA: "Nylon Curtain" is --

JOEL: '82.

ZAKARIA: '82. Did you realize -- I mean, when you look back on it, this is seven years where you're producing, you know, crazily successful album after album, hit single after hit single, did it feel like that at the time?

JOEL: I didn't realize it until afterwards. But I felt like by the time I got to "Turnstiles," I was writing much better material that I had matured as a writer. That I had kind of come into my own, not that I was on a hot streak, but that I was learning how to do it. And I think I got it.

Didn't feel particularly gifted or like on a super streak was -- that was my job, learn how to do my job. I felt competent. How about that? I have been asked for, what's the reason for your success? And I say, I'm competent. And this will, what do you mean? I said, when you're competent in the world of incompetence, that makes you extraordinary.

I know how to do what I'm supposed to do. I know how to write and how to play. I know how to sing and key. I know how to entertain an audience. And I've seen a lot of people who are supposed to be able to do that. And they don't do it very well. So I can do it competently. And that makes me appear, you know, above an extraordinary.

ZAKARIA: When did you feel like I'm a big star?

JOEL: We had done a gig at a venue in Washington, D.C. What's -- Constitution Hall. I think maybe 2,000 seats or something like that. And I got attacked by a mob of girls. I was outside and I got mobbed by these girls. They would pull my clothes off, and my hair out. And I said, wow, this is kind of like "A Hard Day's Night."

Like, I must be, you know, doing pretty well. And I came in the band was all poking fun at me. Whoa, look at you, Mr. Superstar. And I didn't feel like I was a big shot. I just realized, wow, I'm bigger than I think that I know I am.

ZAKARIA: So when I watch now, when I saw you in Madison Square Garden, you have tens of thousands of people singing back your songs too. This must be a crazy heavy experience. And then you go into the car when the concert is done. Is that deflating?

JOEL: Yes, it's an extreme transition to go from 20,000 people singing your words back to you, applauding you, standing, cheering, making all this noise. And then you get into this quiet car, and there's nothing. You go from being Mussolini to being insignificant. And a lot of people have difficulty with that transition. Some people feel like they need to have bodyguards with them and a whole entourage of people. I'm just by myself in the car. OK, what was that all about? It's jarring.

ZAKARIA: This is uniquely true for rock singers. Movie stars don't have that. You know, they don't have 50,000 people feedback.

JOEL: You don't get (INAUDIBLE).


JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: Is that what causes so much of the drugs and the alcohol? You're sort of almost trying to recreate that high.

JOEL: That's probably true. Some people who can't deal with that transition of going from adulation to absolute nothing, they need a lift. Sort of like with cocaine. You're always chasing that first sniff and you'll never get there. It's a pointless chase.

I don't have a problem with it. I'm fine. I go home. I take out the garbage. I cook food. I play with the kids. I'm fine with that transition. But I've been doing this all my life since I was 14 years old.



ZAKARIA: What we now look at as your last rock album, did you think it was going to be your last?

JOEL: I didn't realize it until I got to the end, the last song, which was called "Famous Last Words."


JOEL: I was writing that song and I recognize this is a swan song. I'm basically bidding farewell to songwriting. And it felt like it was time. The song I wrote before that was called "2000 Years."


JOEL: This was -- looking forward to the year 2000 when everything was going to be great and the world was going to change and there was going to be no more war. And I realized how naive I was to have written that. Things didn't change. Things got what seemed to be worse. And I recognized I'm not a prophet, I'm not a philosopher. I'm just a dumb piano player. So it's time for me to shut up.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): And that's exactly what he did. "River of Dreams" was the last original rock album Billy released in 1993. Eight years later, he did release "Fantasies and Delusions," an album of classical music.

(on-camera): So you still writing a lot, right?

JOEL: I still compose music. ZAKARIA: And is there an element of maybe you're being too much of a perfectionist that you don't want to show it to us? Let that the public hear it?


JOEL: Maybe, I didn't think of that. But I -- what's important to me is that I -- I'm being productive to myself, that I am creating, that I'm still a musician. I don't feel the need to have to share it with the world or record it and sell records and make a business out of it because I've been doing that for the past 50 years.

ZAKARIA: Is part of it that the kind of music you did, you felt like you did it, it was often age, and the music being played now. Whether it's -- whatever hip hop, rap, whatever is just not the world you want to participate in?

JOEL: Well, I think my kind of songwriting is anachronistic at this point. I don't really hear the kind of music that I was writing back in the 70s, or the 60s, or even the 80s anymore. It's a different kind of pop music.

ZAKARIA: What do you think of it?

JOEL: Some of it is good. And some of it isn't good. Just like when I was doing it, there's some good stuff, there's some bad -- there's always going to be like that.

ZAKARIA: The big differences now between when you grew up and I grew up, we listened to music as an album and we had a curated list of songs that you had given us.

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: And now it's all individual, every individual creates his own or her own playlist and that's going to be more and more true with artificial intelligence because you're going to be -- you know, the computer will suggest songs to you --

JOEL: Yes.

ZAKARIA: -- and with them what they know --

JOEL: That's what you'll hear.

ZAKARIA: Right. So, what does that do to music, do you think?

JOEL: I think it tends to diminish the community aspect of music. I think my age group seemed to all be on the same page for a couple of years, especially after the Kennedy assassination. And I think it continued somewhat into the 70s and then the demographics changed.

And when the internet began, people could stream their own stuff. And we weren't a community anymore. But that's part of the joy of being a musician, is creating that community. I hear -- when we play a concert, and people are singing, and I realized, whoa, there's a community here. Look what we're doing. And it's this is a joy to it, that we created this sense of community, which I don't know if it's still going to exist.

ZAKARIA: I mean, in a way, it's a metaphor for what's happening to the country, right? I mean, everyone is moving internally, and then the only way they connect us through social media or something the --

JOEL: Yes, they're listening to their own echo chamber. A lot of people will only hear what they want to hear. And sometimes you should hear things that you didn't want to hear, just to be exposed to it.

ZAKARIA (voice-over): As we came to the close of our conversation, we talked about how Billy sees his own work in comparison with that of his musical idol.

(on-camera): What is it you said about Beethoven? And you you said, I haven't forgiven myself for not being Beethoven?

JOEL: Well, I read a quote where Neil Diamond was talking about, he had forgiven himself for not being Beethoven. And I had an epiphany at that moment. That's the issue. I haven't forgiven myself for not being Beethoven. And I probably never will.

ZAKARIA: The first interview, I was able to track down of you was I think 77. You said, when I was young, I wanted to be a rock star. Now I want to be a great musician. What do you want to be now?

JOEL: Now, I just want to be a good dad. I have two very young kids now, six years old, four years old. And I haven't a chance to be a father again because I also have a 35-year-old. And I want to do it better this time. It's such a joy to it. That's, right now, the most important thing to me.

ZAKARIA: And is that partly because, I mean, you've just scaled every mountain? I mean, Kennedy Center, Presidential Medals, Rock and Roll, Hall of Fame, it's difficult to see what -- there's nothing left in that world for you to conquer.

JOEL: Well, it's -- was really my own bar that I set. The height of that bar is something I will probably never reach. I always demand more of myself. One of the reasons I think I stopped writing songs was because I recognize this is as good as I'm going to get with songwriting. And I'm -- rather than being aggravated and frustrated that I couldn't write it better, I'm going to do it a different way. I'm going to just write music.

So I recognize what does Clint Eastwood says, man's got to know its limitations. I recognize mine.