Ten Surprising & Strange Tributes to Billy Joel

Billy Joel at Minneapolis's Target Center, 5/16/15
Billy Joel at Minneapolis's Target Center, 5/16/15
Steven Cohen for City Pages

In case you haven't noticed, Billy Joel is everywhere these days. And if him taking up permanent residence at Madison Square Garden wasn't enough, the Piano Man is preparing to headline Bonnaroo in June, not to mention closing out Nassau Coliseum on August 4 before its massive renovation project gets under way. Ah yes, and tomorrow he's back at MSG for another Manhattan soiree. He's just bein' Billy.

But perhaps in the all-out Joel assault you've found yourself growing more and more disinclined to hear the man himself sing "Zanzibar" for the thousandth time. No worries: Here's a list of some of best, most unexpected, and straight-up strangest Billy Joel covers recorded over the years, as well as those instances where rappers have given Billy his shine by simply sampling him. From Action Bronson to Amy Poehler, check out some fantastically out-there toasts to Billy Joel.

Action Bronson, "Brand New Car"

The bodacious Queens MC has made no secret of his affection for Billy Joel. Perhaps it was only right that dude sampled Joel's iconic "Zanzibar" lick on "Brand New Car," the Mark Ronson–produced opening track off this year's major-label debut LP,

Mr. Wonderful

. "That sample we took from Billy was that, we just replayed it," he

said recently

. "[This song has] one of my favorite piano stabs, the guitar....It's just incredible."

Ed Helms, "Allentown"

Leave it to a movie like

The Hangover 2

to take a (pseudo) patriotic tune like Billy Joel's "Allentown" and let Ed Helms transform it (brilliantly) into a rumination on Bangkok-fueled escapades that involve being beaten by a monk, getting one's finger chopped off, and wanting to shoot Zach Galifianakis in the face. Yes, this BJ cover, albeit brief, is one for the ages.

French Montana, "State of Mind"

There's no masking this straight-up tribute to Mr. Joel: French Montana slurs the lyrics to Joel's "New York State of Mind" in the intro to his own "State of Mind," the Harry Fraud–produced toast to the Big Apple from his 2012

Mac & Cheese 3

mixtape. Luckily for Joel fans, Frenchie's lyrical turn here on Billy's words is easier to understand than his typically incomprehensible dialogue (see the entire last season of

Keeping Up With the Kardashians


Garth Brooks, "Shameless"

Billy rarely busts out this gentle ballad from his 1989 album,

Storm Front

. And maybe it's because he was shocked and downright disturbed to see country king Garth Brooks take a swipe at it two years later, on his 1991 album

Ropin' the Wind

. Brooks is usually at his best in all his pyrotechnic-aided glory, but here his notes ring far too flat, and drone. A worthy attempt; we'll be keeping our fingers crossed that Billy brings it back sometime soon.

On the next page: Gene Ween, the Beastie Boys, and more take on the music of an Angry Young Man

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