Billy Joel is one of the most successful solo artists and songwriters in American music. He released his first track, “Piano Man,” in 1973 and has been selling records ever since. He’s had hits in every decade from the 70s to the 90s, and has sold over 150 million albums across the globe. He’s also earned 23 Grammy nominations, taking home six of the trophies.
Joel has been inducted into not only the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but also the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. Even though he’s now well over 60 years old, Joel still performs, with three concerts lined up in the U.K. in the fall of 2013.
In the same year that Joel released his debut song, he married his business manager, Elizabeth Weber Small, but their marriage ended in divorce about nine years later. In 1983, Joel met model Christie Brinkley in St Barths, and the celebrity couple tied the knot two years later. She was said to be the inspiration for his hit song “Uptown Girl.” Nine months after the wedding—talk about impeccable timing—Brinkley gave birth to their daughter, Alexa Ray Joel.
Although Joel and Brinkley seemed happy together, the celebrity couple parted ways in 1994. Their divorce proceedings were reportedly very quick and easy, and the pair are still friends. In fact, it was Brinkley who took care of Joel after he underwent a double hip replacement in November 2010.
It wasn’t until 10 years after Joel’s divorce from Brinkley that he settled down once again—although no one was expecting that he’d find love with a woman who was less than half his age. At the age of 55, Joel married 23-year-old food critic Katie Lee. Despite their 32-year age difference, Joel had the blessing of both his ex-wife (Brinkley) and their then 18-year-old daughter, who was actually Lee’s maid-of-honor.
Five years into their marriage, Joel and Lee both confirmed that they had decided to break up. At first, many reports speculated that it was because Lee was having an affair with 36-year-old fashion designer Yigal Azrouël—she was spotted getting close to him on a dance floor in Miami. However, reps for both Joel and Lee maintained that this wasn’t true, and that their divorce had nothing to do with Azrouël.
In reality, it was the age difference that finally caught up with the celebrity couple. “They grew apart. She is very career-oriented. She loves going out. She loves the city. When Billy isn’t touring, he’d rather be on Long Island with his motorcycles and boats,” said a friend of the couple.
The age difference must not have been that hard for Joel because his new girlfriend is just as young. Joel went public with his new girlfriend, Alexis Roderick, in December 2010—she’s also 32 years younger than him. According to Roderick, she and Joel were friends for a long time before they officially started dating.
Rush, G., “Billy Joel and wife Katie Lee split,” New York Daily News web site; http://goo.gl/a99gZ, last accessed July 9, 2013.