“Just the Way You Are” by Billy Joel

Although it is never actually specified in the lyrics that “Just the Way You Are” is a love song of the romantic variety, such is in fact the case. And in that regard it is perhaps as unconditional as they come, as the vocalist is relatedly putting forth two main assertions towards his significant other. 

First is that she does not need to change in order to make him happy. In other words, the narrator is pleased with the addressee as is. And that is the concept that the title is based on. 

And secondly, furthering said thought process is the notion that he will never grow tired of her. So the singer is assuring his partner that even into the future he won’t suffer from any type of romantic boredom, a mood which does in fact tend to destroy many a relationship.

And what all of this boils down to is him actually encouraging her to be inactive as opposed to actively trying to edify their romance or impress him. The vocalist does not want the addressee to make any type of personal modifications whatsoever, particularly if she is doing so in an attempt to somehow flatter him. 

So the implication behind all of this would be that he is already 100 percent enamored with her, being smitten in such a manner that it’s impossible for him to fall in love with her any further. And along those lines we can additionally postulate that if she did do something out of ordinary to impress him, it would probably yield a negative as opposed to positive response.

“Just the Way You Are” is The Ultimate Love Song

So in a way, this is like the ultimate love song. All of us desire that significant other who’ll accept us ‘just the way we are’ rather than trying to exert their own will and ideologies upon us. 

Indeed it can be said that the sentiment expressed therein is based more on a romantic fantasy than reality, for even the woman Billy Joel composed this timeless tune in relation to ended up dumping him.

Lyrics to Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are”

When did Billy Joel release “Just the Way You Are”?

This track is a single from Billy Joel’s album “The Stranger”, which Columbia Records put out on 29 September 1977. And it was the Piano Man’s initial big hit. It was actually the first of his tunes to reach as high as number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and to appear at all on the UK Singles Chart. On the said chart, it peaked at number 19.  

“Just the Way You Are” also topped Billboard’s as well as Canada’s Adult Contemporary charts, in addition to placing in the top 20 in a few other countries.

And whereas that is an impressive chart history, it does not do justice to just how successful this song was. For it is one of those tracks which holds the distinction of not only being awarded Record of the Year but also Song of Year. And this transpired at the Grammy Awards of 1979.

Bill Joel discusses “Just the Way You Are”

“Just the Way You Are” was written exclusively by Billy Joel. And as he explained it, its melody originally came to him in a dream. Moreover, its sound was inspired by a 1964 tune entitled “Rag Doll” by The Four Seasons.

Billy Joel explains “Just the Way You Are”
Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are”

More Facts about “Just the Way You Are”

This was a song that, after being put together, Billy Joel and his band didn’t take kindly to and accordingly weren’t even going to include it on the aforementioned album. However, two other musicians who were recording nearby, Linda Ronstadt and the late Phoebe Snow (1950-2011), convinced the Piano Man otherwise.

However, according to Phil Ramone (1931-2015), who produced the track, the real reason it made it onto The Stranger was simply because Billy Joel and co. failed to put together an entire album’s worth of material anyway.

There are actually two versions of this song, with the single version being significantly shorter than the one featured on the album.

You may be more familiar with one of the covers of “Just the Way You Are”, as rendered by the following singers as opposed to the original:

  • Barry White (1978)
  • Frank Sinatra (1980)
  • Harry Connick Jr. (2009)
  • Willie Nelson (2019)

Elizabeth Weber, the Addressee of “Just the Way You Are”

Part of the reason for the above may be because, despite the song being a bit hit, Billy Joel shied away from performing it live from the mid-1980s until the turn of the century. And that’s because he had written it specifically with his wife at the time, Elizabeth Weber, in mind.

Well unfortunately they divorced a few years later, in 1982, having gotten married in 1973. And even when they were together, the relationship was less than ideal. For instance, there’s a story that Joel introduced “Just the Way You Are” to Elizabeth Weber during her birthday – which is the type of heartfelt, original gift we would venture to say just about any woman would appreciate, especially one who is already well taken care of. But her response was reportedly, “Do I get publishing, too?”  

That is to say that she was more concerned about royalties than the actual sentiment behind the song. Moreover, Billy spent millions of dollars on Elizabeth while they married. Additionally while they were divorcing, he spent millions more trying to win her back. And this is not to mention the tens of millions her brother allegedly gypped him out of.  (Elizabeth Weber was also Billy Joel’s business manager). 

Then, he still had to cough up a pretty penny in resolving said divorce. In fact one of Billy’s bandmates, Liberty DeVitto, used to jokingly modify the lyrics of “Just the Way You Are” to tease Joel in terms of that latter reality. Or put otherwise, the manner in which the vocalist split from the addressee left a sour taste in his mouth, one that more or less prevented Billy from rendering this song written in dedication of Elizabeth Weber for some time.

What Billy Joel said about “Just the Way You Are”

Notable Live Performance

However, during the aforementioned period of time, in 1988 to be exact, Billy did render “Just the Way You Are” on Sesame Street, though a modified version in honor of Oscar the Grouch.

Who played the saxophone on “Just the Way You Are”?

The saxophone solo on the track was performed by the late Phil Woods (1931-2015), who has a couple of Grammy Awards under his belt.

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