One of the most anticipated rock bios of the year, Billy Joel comes with a backstory almost as complicated as the 65-year-old hitmaker's life. Joel originally brought in Fred Schruers, a respected Rolling Stone alum, to co-author a memoir with him, for which the singer got a reported $3 million advance. In March 2011, with publication just weeks away, Joel bailed, saying he was "not all that interested in talking about the past." Speculation about the reasons ran rampant in the press. Some said it was because the memoir was too candid; others said it was not candid enough. But, in a surprising twist, Joel allowed Schruers to write a book about him using the existing research. (Celebrity co-authors generally sign contracts preventing them from disclosing what they learn in other projects.)
The resulting volume, based on more than 100 hours of conversation with Joel and interviews with dozens of friends and family members, does little to solve the mystery. There's plenty of embarrassing material here, from Joel's suicide attempts to his struggles with alcohol to his three failed marriages and longtime financial problems -- all of it narrated with the singer's own words -- but nothing not found in your average episode of Behind the Music. The private Joel comes across as a brilliant musician but a lonely and self-destructive, though not entirely unlikable, man.