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Song Stories

“Piano Man”

Billy Joel | 1973

Billy Joel’s first hit, “Piano Man,” was – ironically – an autobiographical lament about how his first album wasn’t a hit. When Cold Spring Harbor didn’t take off, Joel briefly became a lounge pianist in Los Angeles, and this song, about that experience, expressed his frustrations and fears at the time: “And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar/And say, ‘Man, what are you doing here?’” “It was all right,” Joel said later, about the gig. “I got free drinks and union scale, which was the first steady money I’d made in a long time.”

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Song Stories

“Money For Nothing”

Dire Straits | 1984

Mark Knopfler wrote this song with Sting, and it wasn’t without controversy. The Dire Straits frontman's original lyric used the word “faggot” to describe a singer who got their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” Even though the slur was edited out in many versions, the band, and Knopfler, still took plenty of criticism for the term. “I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London--he actually said it was below the belt,” Knopfler told Rolling Stone. Still, "Money For Nothing," undoubtedly augmented by its innovative early computer-animated video, stayed at Number One for three weeks.

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