Billy Joel has been a great influence on me in my budding music career. Who were some of his early influences?
—Brian R., New York
The Piano Man, 51, born William Martin Joel, discovered classical music at age 4, a love that remains to this day and provided him with a strong foundation for his future. He lists his early influences as Ray Charles (after whom his daughter, Alexa Ray, is named), The Beatles, Otis Redding, the Rolling Stones, Dave Brubeck, and Sam Cook. Their influence can be heard in some of Joel's biggest hits, such as Piano Man, Just the Way You Are, She's Always a Woman, and The River of Dreams. The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show fired up his musical ambitions and, at age 14, he joined his first band, The Echoes.