Multi-instrumentalist Crystal Taliefero — best known for her work with ongoing work with Billy Joel, along with Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp — revealed she was diagnosed with Stage Two breast cancer in February. In a new wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone, Taliefero spoke candidly about all aspects of her career, but couldn't help but show some major love for the “Piano Man” — who's been helping her during this troubling time.
She said, “Here’s another thing about my boss. I have to say it. When I got diagnosed, he was the first one that jumped right in and said, 'Check this doctor out. We have a relationship with these guys over here.' So helpful. And that’s for all of us. When a tech guy had to have surgery for his diabetes, Billy was all over that. He cares. He really, genuinely cares about his family. And I consider this my road family.”
Taliefero, who began touring with Billy Joel in support of his 1989 Storm Front album, explained, “He’s always been upfront with us, which is a rarity these days. If I can be a little candid about my boss. . . It doesn’t get any better. This is it. You’re not going to see too many people like him. He’s a rarity. He does things that 90 percent of other people just don’t do. He thinks about us. He’s concerned about us. During this pandemic, he’s paid our salaries. Come on, man. I’m starting to get emotional here. . . Pretty amazing. It’s unselfish. It’s loving. It’s all of the above. That’s probably one of the main reasons he’s been so blessed. He’s not a taker, let’s put it like that.”
Billy Joel kicked off his ongoing residency at New York's Madison Square Garden on January 7th, 2014, and to date, has played a total of 181 shows: “No one expected for it to go this long, first of all. We figured it would be six months or a year. And then the first year went by. 'Dang it, we’re going into the second year. OK.' Second year went by. 'Oh goodness, we’re in the third year.' Fourth year went by. 'What’s happening?' And then 100 sold-out shows. 'Oh, my goodness.”
Taliefero — who's also toured with the Bee Gees and Bob Seger — went on to say that there's a reason Billy Joel is so beloved: “He is truly anointed. He’s blessed. His fans remind me of the Bee Gees’. They are totally, totally committed. They come out and they spend their hard-earned money to see us. I feel so blessed that we can perform for them. They don’t have to spend their money on us.”
When pressed on what her favorite Billy songs to play in the ever-changing Garden setlists, Taliefero admitted: “I like 'Blonde Over Blue' and 'Sometimes A Fantasy' and 'She’s Always A Woman' and 'Modern Woman.' Of course I like 'River Of Dreams.' I like the Storm Front album.
Billy Joel told us that the reason why he and his band are able to tackle anything from his back catalogue onstage and beyond is because while making their bones, everybody had to play covers during their early club days: “Everybody in my band — and me included — was in a bar band at one time. And we had to play the top hits of the day, from 'Woolly Bully,' to the Rascals, to James Brown, to the Beatles — you name it; we had to play it. And we liked playing all different kinds of music, because we were capable of playing different kinds of music.”