1978 – Billy Joel scores debut UK hit with Just the

Billy Joel

1978 – Billy Joel scores debut UK hit with Just the Way You Are. No. 1 Chart Topper.

Just the Way You Are” is a love song from Billy Joel’s 1977 pop rock album, The Stranger. It was written as a birthday gift to Joel’s first wife Elizabeth Weber. After they divorced, Joel said that when performing the song, he would imagine what he would eat for dinner or what he would do after the show, or even accidentally sing alternate lyrics written by Liberty DeVitto (“She took the dog, the house, the car”). This was his first US Top 10 (reaching #3) and UK Top 20 single, and it was also Joel’s first Gold single in the US. “Just the Way You Are” won the 1978 Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

The track features an alto sax solo by jazz artist Phil Woods, who replaced Richie Cannata (who played sax for most of the songs on The Stranger) when the latter’s style of playing was deemed unfit for the song. Guitarist Steve Khan, who played on most of the songs on The Stranger missed playing this one because he was on a trip, and had to be replaced. The bossa nova style of the song was strongly encouraged by producer Phil Ramone. Upon learning this would be the beat used for the song, drummer Devitto threw his drumsticks at Joel and said, “I’m not a damned cocktail lounge drummer!”

Joel has gone on record stating that he personally dislikes the song and was originally going to leave it off the album. However, at the request of both Linda Ronstadt and Phoebe Snow (both were recording in other studios in the same building at the time), Joel and Ramone agreed to leave it on the album. Joel has not performed “Just the Way You Are” live in many years.

Cover versions

“Just the Way You Are” has been covered by several artists, including Diana Krall, Grover Washington, Jr., Barry White, Shirley Bassey, Jose Feliciano, Engelbert Humperdinck (singer), and Frank Sinatra. It is referenced in the Fountains of Wayne song “Peace and Love” (which repeats the first line of the song, albeit, as the singer notes, in a different chord). The song was programmed into the Yamaha PSS series of synthesizers, popular in the late 1980s, as a demonstration mode.

Lesley Ann Warren performed the song on The Muppet Show.

“Just the Way You Are” was covered by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the 2005 movie Happy Endings.

An instrumental version of the song plays in the background during the Holiday Inn scene in the movie The Blues Brothers. A cover version of the song was used by the British commercial television station ITV in 1989, to promote the network.

Also in a skit on Sesame Street, Billy Joel and Marlee Matlin bring a used piano to Oscar the Grouch and tell him that in order to get the piano, he has to listen to a love song performed by Joel and signed by Matlin. Oscar is initially angry but listens to the song. The song’s lyrics are reworded to fit Oscar’s personality and Joel explains that they don’t want Oscar to become happy or change himself; they like him grouchy and “just the way you are.” Oscar becomes infuriated when Matlin hugs and kisses him, which he claims “Never do that to a grouch!” Joel and Matlin leave after Oscar says that he doesn’t want the piano after all because “I’ve heard this piano! It’s tuned!” Then he says that although he hated the love song, “this one kinda really made me angry,” and lets out a satisfied sigh.

The song was covered by the company Wavegroup for the game Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol.


Don’t go changing, to try and please me,
You never let me down before,
Don’t imagine, you’re too familiar,
And I don’t see you anymore.

I would not leave you, in times of trouble,
We never could have come this far,
I took the good times, I’ll take the bad times,
I’ll take you just the way you are.

Don’t go trying, some new fashion,
Don’t change the colour of your hair,
You always have my, unspoken passion,
Although I might not seem to care.

I don’t want clever, conversation,
I never want to work that hard,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.

I need to know that you will always be
The same old someone that I knew,
What will it take till you believe in me,
The way that I believe in you?

I said I love you, and that’s forever,
And this I promise from the heart,
I couldn’t love you, any better,
I love you just the way you are.

I don’t want clever, conversation,
I never want to work that hard,
I just want someone, that I can talk to,
I want you just the way you are.

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