Billy Joel's musical influences vary across genres and styles. During an interview with Andrew Gold of The New York Times, Joel stated that he "Idolized both of them [Paul McCartney and John Lennon] equally." Apart from deriving his rock 'n' roll style from The Beatles, Joel also took inspiration from the psychedelic rock artist Jimi Hendrix and swing artist Frank Sinatra. Additionally, Joel took influence from Mozart and Beethoven. Unlike the pop and rock songs of his day, Joel's music consisted of a lot more modulations and suspensions. In the same interview, Joel stated that he can "relate to Beethoven" in the sense that, like Beethoven, he wrote instrumental compositions before adding lyrics. In 2001, Joel released Fantasies and Delusions, an album that consists only of instrumental, classical compositions.
Joel also drew influence from his personal life. Most of his songs had a lot to do with what he was currently dealing with at home or in the industry. This ranged from events like his attempted suicide and his short-lived marriages, all the way to his struggles during the beginning stages of his career. Many of these events were clearly represented in his lyrics. For instance, the song 'Piano Man' is all about playing piano in the early stages of his career at his favorite bar. The song 'And So It Goes' is about many failed relationships. Almost every song of Joel's was a product of his personal experiences.
To give an idea of just how rocky Joel's love life has been, here is a brief timeline. Joel's first wife was with his former bandmate's ex-wife, Elizabeth Weber. They were married from 1973 to 1982. Joel and Weber developed a relationship while she was still married to John Smalls. Upon admitting this, Weber left Joel and cut connections with both of them. Joel married Christie Brinkley in 1985 and had his only child, Alexa Ray Joel. She was given the middle name Ray after one of Joel's musical idols, Ray Charles. The couple divorced in 1994. In 2004, Joel married Katie Lee. In 2009, the couple split but Lee insists the two remained friends.
All of these failed relationships were not complete failures, because they produced many songs that put Joel on top of the charts, and that touched the hearts of many people.
"The single biggest moment that I can remember being galvanized into wanting to be a musician for life was seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show."