Compared to many other entertainers, Billy Joel isn’t one who’s known to talk in depth about politics. But when he was asked in a recent interview about his decision to play a Madison Square Garden show in the aftermath of the Charlottesville riots wearing a Star of David, Joel didn’t hold back, explaining why he wore the familiar Jewish symbol and mincing no words when talking about the alleged Neo-Nazis who took part in the riots.
Speaking to Vulture’s David Marchese in an interview published earlier this week, Joel covered a wide range of topics, including his decision to keep performing at the age of 69, even as contemporaries such as Elton John and Paul Simon have announced their retirements from touring. He admitted, however, that he’s “already struggling” with his vocals, especially when it comes to hitting the high notes he effortlessly hit when he was in his 20s and 30s, and that he might consider retirement if he ends up “[throwing] too much junk,” or having to drop the keys of his songs too often.
Later on in the interview, Billy Joel was asked about the post-Charlottesville show, where he wore a Star of David during the performance. This took place as Marchese was asking Joel about comparisons with Bruce Springsteen, who has often been very outspoken about his political beliefs in his music and in his shows. According to Joel, his decision to wear the Jewish symbol had nothing to do with politics, as he felt that what took place at Charlottesville last year was more akin to “war,” and that President Donald Trump was wrong for saying that there were “good people” among the protesters and counter-protesters.
“When Trump said there were good people on both sides — there are no good Nazis. There are no good Ku Klux Klan people. Don’t equivocate that sh*t,” said Joel, who added that most of his father’s family was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II.
“So when those guys see punks walking around with swastikas, how do they keep from taking a baseball bat and bashing those crypto-Nazis over the head? Those creeps are going to march through the streets of my country? Uh-uh. I was personally offended. That’s why I wore that yellow star. I had to do something, and I didn’t think speaking about it was going to be as impactful.”
— Vulture (@vulture) July 23, 2018
As recalled by The Hill, Trump’s comments about Charlottesville were criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike as he initially blamed those who took part in the rally and those who opposed it, then remarked that there were some “very fine people” on both sides who were dragged into the issue.
Billy Joel also called out Trump and his administration, blaming the president for the “terrible things” currently happening in the United States and adding that he isn’t happy with a lot of his policies, especially the discontinued “zero tolerance” policy that separated many immigrant families from their children. The singer stressed that such policies and their aftermath will be looked back at “in shame” in the years to come.
In another comment about the state of America at the present, Joel lamented how he feels most of the country appears to be conservative at the present, which is a stark contrast to how people were in his youth when young people across the United States were protesting the Vietnam War.