The Longest Time: Billy Joel’s ‘An Innocent Man’ turns 40


August 8, 1983, brought a surprise for Billy Joel fans: a brand-new album, which came less than a year after his previous release, 1982’s The Nylon Curtain.

An Innocent Man was a tribute to the music that Billy had loved as a teenager, like Motown, R&B, doo wop and The Four Seasons. He said that inspiration came from the fact that he was newly divorced and single for the first time since he became a rock star. Having the opportunity to date supermodels like Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley, he explained, made him feel “like a teenager all over again.”

“When you’re gonna write [songs for a new album], you write what you’re feeling. And I didn’t fight it,” he added. “The material was coming so easily and so quickly, and I was having so much fun doing it. I was kind of reliving my youth…. I think within 6 weeks I had written most of the material on the album.”

Billy also said he was pleasantly surprised when retro-sounding songs like “The Longest Time” and “Uptown Girl” became hits. In fact, the first single from the album, “Tell Her About It,” became his second #1 single.

In addition to those three songs, the album also spun off two other hits — “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” and ‘Keeping The Faith” — and has sold more than seven million copies in the U.S. alone. It also earned him two Grammy nominations, including a nod for Album of the Year. It was the second year in a row he’d been nominated in that category.

After the one-two punch of The Nylon Curtain and An Innocent Man, Billy fans waited three more years for his next album of original music: 1986’s The Bridge.

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