Billy Joel keeps record of his life off the shelves


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The Independent US

He sang about the delights of being able to "forget about life for a while", and that's exactly what Billy Joel has decided to do after suddenly pulling the plug on a revelatory autobiography which was already written, was in the final stages of being edited, and had been scheduled to hit the world's bookstores in the middle of June.

In a statement released by HarperCollins, his cuckolded publisher, the 61-year-old singer said he'd suddenly had second thoughts about raking over the gory details of his career. All manuscripts of The Book of Joel, a handful of which are already rumoured to be in the hands of reviewers, will now have to be retrieved and pulped.

"It took working on writing a book to make me realise that I'm not all that interested in talking about the past, and that the best expression of my life and its ups and downs has been and remains my music," Joel said. The seven-figure advance he was given after signing his original $3m book deal three years ago is now expected to be repaid.

Joel's decision represents a huge blow for HarperCollins, which had already revealed the cover art for the book and had been busy promising journalists that it would provide an "emotional ride" which would "contain details he has never revealed before". The firm had been counting on it making a splash on a par with that of Keith Richards, whose autobiography has spent recent months at the top of the hardback best-seller lists.

A spokesman for the publisher, which had planned an initial print run of 250,000 books with a high-street value of around $8m, said it had been well into the editing process of the book, but it had yet to be "finished, approved, or signed-off on." It had been ghost-written by Fred Schruers, a veteran music journalist who can also now kiss goodbye to any residual earnings on his deal.

No one involved in the project has yet disclosed what particular chapters of his life Joel was unhappy sharing with the public. However, he's experienced a fair share of ups and downs during the 40 years since 1971's publication of his first record, Cold Spring Harbor, which contained the hit "She's Got a Way".

The singer's romantic life has included three failed marriages. His first was to Elizabeth Weber Small, who was married to Joel's (then) bandmate Jon when their relationship began. A second, in the 1980s, was to supermodel Christie Brinkley, the subject of "Uptown Girl". His third ex-wife, Katie Lee, is a television presenter 30 years his junior. Other notches on his bedpost include Elle Macpherson, whom he dated in the 1980s and who inspired "And So It Goes". Joel has also experienced lifelong struggles with depression, substance abuse and alcoholism, which led him to attempt suicide in the early 1970s.

Joel's publicist, Claire Mercuri, would not elaborate on the reasons for his withdrawal from the project, saying only that, "he feels that his music really speaks about his life better than anything else".

Joel is by no means the first popular musician to cancel an eagerly awaited book. Mick Jagger backed out of a deal in the early 1980s, saying he couldn't remember anything interesting. More recently, Sean "Diddy" Combs didn't bother to complete a memoir that he was supposed to write for Random House and ended up being sued.