Billy Joel officially made his return to the Grammy Awards stage during the 66th annual ceremony, with an emotional performance of his new single “Turn the Lights Back On.”
Complete with a live orchestra accompanying him, Joel serenaded the crowd with his latest romantic ballad, which ruminates on the possibility of repairing a flawed relationship. With his signature soulful vocals on display, the New York icon brought the enraptured Los Angeles crowd to their feet.
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In an interview segment featured before his performance, Joel reflected on his break from songwriting, saying, “A lot of people have asked me, ‘Why’d you stop writing?’ Because I didn’t want to. Some people, maybe they have a great time with it. I kind of suffer with songwriting.”
Enter Freddy Wexler, a longtime Billy Joel fan whose wife found a way to connect the two songwriters. The pair unexpectedly bonded, and Wexler convinced Joel to pick up the pen again and get into the vocal booth — after two years of “relentless” convincing.
Joel shared of the experience, “I did a recording and I listened back and I didn’t hate my voice, which I usually do…So this is actually the first time I’m doing it in 30 years. The whole point of doing what I do was because it was so much fun to do when I first started. I kind of lost that after a while. Freddy got me to find the joy in it again.”
Joel last performed on the Grammys stage 22 years ago, when he performed “New York State of Mind” with Tony Bennett during the telecast.
“Turn the Lights Back On” is Joel’s first new music release in 17 years. The song marked his first solo song since 2007 and second since 1993. Joel co-wrote “Turn the Lights Back On” with its Wexler, as well as Wayne Hector and Arthur Bacon.
The 74-year-old last released “All My Life” as a standalone single in 2007. Prior to that, he recorded three cover songs for 1997’ “Greatest Hits Volume III,” including Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” In terms of album releases, his last full-length arrived in 2011 with “Fantasies & Delusions,” consisting of classical compositions. His last pop record, “River of Dreams,” released in 1993.
Throughout his career, Joel has been nominated for 23 Grammy awards and won six times. He was first nominated in 1979 for “Just the Way You Are” in the record of the year and song of the year categories, both of which he took home. He was last nominated in 2002 for “New York State of Mind” in the best pop collaboration with vocals category after re-recording the song with Bennett.
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