The Billy Joel Song That He Stopped Playing Live Because It “Cursed” His Marriage

Even the least diehard Billy Joel fans are familiar with the song “Just The Way You Are”. Released in 1977 on the album The Stranger, the song did quite a bit for Joel’s career. It was his very first Top 10 song in the US, as well as his first Top 20 single in the UK. It went certified gold and snatched two Grammys for the singer/songwriter. 

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And today… he never performs it live.

Why Won’t Billy Joel Perform “Just The Way You Are” Anymore?

“Just The Way You Are” was originally written for his former manager and wife Elizabeth Weber. Unfortunately, the couple divorced just a few years after the song was released in 1982. Anyone would have a rough time performing a tribute song to their ex-spouse. Still, Joel continued to perform it for a while to appease fans. But by the end of the 1980s, he rarely ever brought the song out for live performances.

According to Joel, his habit of writing songs for his lovers often ended in the dissolution of those relationships.

“Every time I wrote a song for a person I was in a relationship with, it didn’t last,” said Joel. “It was kind of like the curse. Here’s your song, we might as well say goodbye now.”

It seems like he took the belief that his songs could curse relationships to heart. He stopped penning dedications to his romantic partners and also stopped performing “Just The Way You Are” live.

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The song itself also garnered a bit of controversy back in the day. Some listeners thought the song was misogynistic in a way because Joel was telling his wife not to change.

“‘Don’t go changing to try and please me,'” he said of the controversy in an interview with SiriusXM in 2016. “People forget these things. If they don’t like what I do, they’ll go, ‘Oh yeah, he hates women. Look at this. Don’t change, stay the way you are, the same old someone that he knew. Wow, he really doesn’t like her.’ Because I’m happy exactly the way you are. That’s why I love you in the first place.”

One can’t deny that it’s a great song, but we definitely get why Joel decided to shelve it for good.

Photo by John Shearer

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