In May 2023, Grammy award-winning singer and pianist Billy Joel announced that he would be listing his $49 million mansion for sale, located in Oyster Bay, a small, historic town on the North Shore of Long Island, New York. 

Joel is one of the world’s best-selling artists and a musical icon beloved by millions, whose ’70s hit “Piano Man” epitomized a flourishing era of music and has shaped the contours of American culture. The artist, who has called Long Island his home for years, has established a lasting legacy imbued in the people and places of Oyster Bay and its surrounding communities. In Oyster Bay, traces of Joel are seen most prominently through a small space near the waterfront called 20th Century Cycles. Open since 2010, 20th Century Cycles is where Joel stores and displays his private collection of motorcycles.

“We’re like an extension of your neighbor’s garage. We just happen to open it up and let people kind of walk around,” said 20th Century Cycles mechanic Alex Puls. 

Puls, who grew up in Georgia, is a self-taught mechanic and has been working with Joel since the early 2000s, managing his collection and overseeing the transportation of his bikes from Sag Harbor to Oyster Bay to Palm Beach. He expressed his admiration for Joel’s far-reaching musical influence. 

“It astonishes me that … [people] come all the way out here, walk around Oyster Bay and then jump back on the train and go back to [New York City],” Puls told the News. “Every time he plays at the Garden, we get people from all over the world that show up, just looking through the window to see if we’re open or not. And I think it’s pretty amazing.”

Puls also described an instance characterizing Joel’s comfort with Long Island. According to Puls, Joel once rode in a “mismatched, two-tone motorcycle” and asked locals for directions after he and U2’s Bono found themselves lost in the Hamptons. 

The Long Island Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame recently cemented Joel’s legacy with a curated exhibit in honor of Joel’s music career. Many of the exhibit’s items have been personally donated by Joel. In November 2023, the street in front of 20th Century Cycles was renamed Billy Joel Way to recognize Joel for his contributions to his community.

Joel’s appreciation for where he grew up is evident through his musical repertoire, which includes songs dedicated to or referencing Long Island, including “Oyster Bay” and “The Downeaster ‘Alexa.’” His presence is palpable to Long Islanders, even to those who might have not met Joel face-to-face. While Joel’s heyday was in the ’70s and ’80s, today his music resonates with the younger generation. According to Aaron Sorkin, a student at Jericho High School, he embodies the spirit of Long Island. 

“He seems like a really down-to-earth guy who has that Long Island vibe,” Sorkin told the News. “My dad is a big fan, so we would always have his music playing on the radio … [his music] reminds me of early car rides when I was little, when life was easy.” 

Joel’s music has impacted Long Island residents for its ability to evoke memories of the past. Neal Bellon, a music teacher in the Massapequa School District and a longtime Billy Joel fan, described listening to Joel’s music from the ’70s on record players and vinyl in his home, following along with the lyrics on the album’s sleeve. As much as he is a man of worldwide fame, to many Long Island residents, Joel feels very much like a personal connection close to home.

“I think everyone who lives here feels a little bit of a connection [to Joel] because, you know, he grew up in Levittown and Hicksville, which is five to 10 minutes from where I am now,” said Dr. Bellon.

Donna Mulligan, a Long Islander who has worked in the business sector for over 30 years, expressed similar sentiments of kinship. She told the News that in her first job in retailing, she worked with people who lived in Joel’s neighborhood and recalled the stories her colleagues told her about Joel “jamming in his garage with his friends.”

“You end up knowing a friend of a friend who knows Billy Joel’s this or relatives or something. He is in the community of people … He’s Long Island’s hero, pretty much,” said Sorkin.

Billy Joel was born on May 9, 1949.