This weekend, Billy Joel assisted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in cleaning up beaches on New York’s Long Island. The singer’s contributions were part of the 21st Annual Oyster Bay Beach and Harbor Cleanup. Around 10am on Saturday, Cuomo, who is currently seeking reelection, arrived with Joel at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park by boat. They joined other elected officials in the project, walking along the shore with black plastic garbage bags and filling them with debris. They spent the remainder of the day picking up litter across the beach. Joel explained that he knows firsthand how much garbage gets thrown into the bay because it frequently washes up on his property.
The musician has backed various other eco-friendly efforts, making generous contributions to the Rainforest Foundation Fund and Farm Aid. In June, he showed strong support in the ban of ivory sales, writing on his website: “I wholeheartedly support the ivory sales ban bill pending in New York State. I am a piano player. And I realize that ivory piano keys are preferred by some pianists. But a preference for ivory keys does not justify the slaughter of 96 elephants every day. There are other materials which can be substituted for piano keys. But magnificent creatures like these can never be replaced. Music must never be used as an excuse to destroy an endangered species. Music should be a celebration of life – not an instrument of death.”
Fans have also noted some environmental themes in Joel’s music. His 1982 song, “Allentown” is written from the perspective of a man living in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where coal mining has peaked. The lyrics portray the declining quality of life with lines like “So the graduations hang on the wall / But they never really helped us at all / No they never taught us what was real / Iron and coke / And chromium steel / And were waiting here in Allentown / But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground / And the union people crawled away.”
Additionally, his 1989 song, “The Downeaster ‘Alexa,’” echoes similar themes, but addresses collapsing fish stocks from the perspective of a fisherman. “I’ve got bills to pay and children who need clothes / I know there’s fish out there but where God only knows / They say these waters aren’t what they used to be / But I’ve got people back on land who count on me.”