Written by
Bob Stumpel

November 18

Baby Grand (With Billy Joel)

'86 Clip JoelAlbum3 1986 JoelWith Billy Joel

Album3 (CD, CS, 8T, LP): The Bridge, Columbia OC 40402, 29 July 1986.
Single3 (A): Columbia 6994, March 1987.

The song was produced for Joel’s album The Bridge, his 10th studio album. The recording of the duet with Ray took place at the Evergreen Studios in Burbank, in 1986.

Joel considers Ray Charles one of his idols. “Ray Charles was my hero when I was growing up,” Joel recalled. “As big of a pianist or as big of a star I could ever become, I could never be Ray Charles.” According to Joel, when Charles heard that Joel named his daughter, Alexa Ray, after him, Charles contacted him saying that he’d love to do a song with Joel, as long as he had the “right song” in mind. When writing the song, Joel tried to compose it in the style of Charles’ hit, Georgia On My Mind, while also giving it a blues sound. Joel wrote the song over a single night. “It was one of those rare songs, like New York State Of Mind, that seem to come all at once – it seemed almost as though I had heard it before.”

Originally Joel sang the song in his thick Hicksville accent, and Charles did the same. According to Joel, Charles was very easy to work with. “He was just waiting for a cue from me,” Joel recalled. “He would have taken the thing anywhere I wanted to take it.” Originally, Joel was nervous about recording with Charles, and was unsure how to record the song. Producer Phil Ramone told Joel to “challenge him,” and to do it the way Joel wanted to. So, Joel did his best impression of Charles,
and Charles understood, and they sang together in the same style.

The song is an ode to the piano. It is a love song that extols the joy and solace of piano playing, and compares the piano to women. The song is also a tribute to Charles himself, in the way it is composed, written, and performed. During the song, Charles and Joel play dual pianos […]. The B-side of the single was another song off of the album, Big Man On Mulberry Street.

From Wikipedia:

Read producer Phil Ramone’s story on the recording here.

Music clip:


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