Love Letter To A Record: Jim Ward On Billy Joel’s ‘The Stranger’

Many of us can link a certain album to pivotal moments in our lives. Whether it’s the first record you bought with your own money, the chord you first learnt to play on guitar, the song that soundtracked your first kiss, the album that got you those awkward and painful pubescent years or the one that set off light bulbs in your brain and inspired you to take a big leap of faith into the unknown – music is often the catalyst for change in our lives and can even help shape who we become.

In this Love Letter To A Record series, Music Feeds asks artists to reflect on their relationship with music and share with us stories about the effect music has had on their lives.

Jim Ward – Billy Joel, ‘The Stranger’ (1977)

Dear Billy Joel’s The Stranger,

I know it has been a while since I have reached out. It isn’t because I don’t love you or miss you, things just get hectic in life sometimes. That isn’t an excuse, it is just an explanation. You know you hold a very special place in my heart.

It’s so easy to just slide back into a conversation with you, we’re only a year apart in age – you slightly younger with a bit more energy and adventure – me a bit more reserved. We have always been a good couple, you and I.

I remember when we met, just kids at the time – figuring things out, experimenting and wide-eyed. My parents introduced me to you. It was instant love for me. I fell in love with your stories- your ups and downs – speed and excitement shifting into melancholy beauty. I didn’t know much else at the time but I knew when a story entranced me – and you were the best.

You were born out of a tumultuous relationship – tinged with angst and unknown. Your family was going through such a scary time and it was a last-ditch effort, devil may care attitude that brought you into this world. It worked, you were everything the world wanted and you brought stability back into your family.

I often think that your older brother, Billy Joel’s ‘Piano Man’ gets all the attention, bigger and more outgoing – people always singing its praises – but you were born a few years later and have the depth that only comes from growing in the shadows of a dominate sibling.

You have gone on to win awards and reach great heights – I didn’t know all that when we met. I just feel like I made a lifelong connection with you. I can always reach back in my memory to our early years together and draw strength from that. You have a part in my evolution.

I know we run into each other here and there, often in an old bar, dusty and dark- you on the jukebox playing catch up with someone or other. I rarely say more than hello – never a long-overdue deep conversation, but it never fails to lift my spirit. Just the glimpse of you brings a smile to my face.

I am pretty sure I have never had the chance to properly thank you – but here it is now: I wouldn’t be the man I am today without, and I love you dearly and eternally.

Jim Ward’s project Sparta’s new album ‘Trust The River’ is out now. It marks the band’s first full-length studio album since 2006.

Must Read